The Ministry of Tourism is planning to hold a conference in April 2005 with a view to encouraging regional and international investors to sign up for future tourist developments in the country. The ministry is creating a shortlist of 98 potential sites spread across the country.

‘We expect to send out invitations to potential investors within two weeks,’ Syria’s Tourism Minister Saadala Agha al-Kalaa told MEED on 9 November. ‘The objective of the conference is to conclude new contracts for our infrastructure development.’

In 2003, the government passed several laws aimed at facilitating foreign direct investment. The main regulations include: complete ownership of projects for foreign investors; exemption from duties and taxes during the construction period and the first seven years of operation; and no import duties on construction materials. Additionally, investors will be allowed to withdraw their initial capital and revenue in foreign currency after five years of investment and transfer profits to foreign currency after the first year of operations.

The ministry is also preparing to launch a promotional authority by the end of the year. Over the last two years, Syria has highlighted tourism as key to its economic growth. The government is aiming to double tourism’s share of gross domestic product (GDP) to 16 per cent by 2010 (MEED 18:7:04).