From record levels of hotel bookings in 2011 and an economy that, while hardly surging was showing signs of benefitting from relaxed state control, Syria’s economic fortunes have gone into sharp reverse.
The economy has suffered during the 16 months of revolt and violence against the Bashar al-Assad regime; from internal conflict and external sanctions imposed to try and get Assad to talk to the opposition and stop killing civilians.
“It has obviously affected the Syrian economy. A lot of Syrian companies tried to keep their employees, to keep the salaries, to keep the bonus, but you know, with these sanctions, it’s really hard to do,” said a Damascus based chemist, Marzan.
Prices for basics have skyrocketed, and imports are harder to obtain. Unoffically, unemployment is now at 30 percent. Syria’s exporters are unable to shift their goods out of the country, and tourism has dried up almost completely.
“I’m very ashamed to say how much, but we have three or four percent occupancy only. We have two hotels. The other one, I’ve closed it, because of this crisis,” said hotelier Fayez al-Midani.
Bargains abound; a room at Fayez’s hotel used to cost 200 euros a night. It now sits empty at 60, but there are still no takers.