- Title: Syrian holidaymakers return to Bloudan resort
- Date: 1st June 2017
- Summary: BLOUDAN, SYRIA (MAY 26, 2017) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF MUSIC BAND PERFORMING AND MEN DANCING AT RESTAURANT VARIOUS OF AUDIENCE WATCHING AND APPLAUDING PERFORMANCE
- Embargoed: 15th June 2017 10:35
- Keywords: Damascene holiday-makers holidays Bloudan resort village Damascus Syria
- Location: BLOUDAN AND DAMASCUS, SYRIA
- City: BLOUDAN AND DAMASCUS, SYRIA
- Country: Syria
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace
- Reuters ID: LVA0026JG1ZYT
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Spending the weekend and holidays at the bustling resort village of Bloudan was once the norm for Damascene families, before the civil war tore Syria apart.
Even though Bloudan has never been out of Syrian government control since the war began in 2011, most holidaymakers didn't feel safe enough to travel to the village as neighbouring Zabadani was occupied by rebels.
But after a deal was reached to evacuate rebels from Zabadani, families from the capital are again flocking to the holiday village, located 51 kilometres north-west of Damascus.
"All the restaurants are open and everybody is happy. Some of them have return to their homes and some have taken their things back. Thank god everybody is so happy," said Samar al-Sayyed, who works in Bloudan.
The owner of a local grocery shop, Jihad Mousaa, said that Bloudan relied on tourists from Damascus and now had the chance to thrive again.
"Damascus citizens are our oxygen. Without them there is no life in Bloudan. Bloudan survives on two things - tourism and agriculture. For five years people have not known anything about their farms. When they were allowed they came a month ago. And tourism as you see, thank god. Damascus's only resort is Bloudan and for us our life, work and everything counts on Damascus citizens."
Syria's Tourism Minister Bisher Yazagi was confident that Bloudan would again become a bustling holiday destination.
He said the government would help the town thrive by providing local businesses with loans and cancelling previous debts.
"Today we are planning to cancel a number of debts in addition to providing some supportive loans for owners of tourist places, in order to rebuild their facilities so that Bloudan returns to the way it was - the most important summer residence in Syria especially for Damascus's residents and the surrounding areas," Yazagi said.
Yazagi hoped that, by reviving Bloudan, overcrowding would ease at other tourist spots near the capital.
"The return of Bloudan will minimize congestion. Today Bloudan is the lung. There used to be congestion in Rabweh and in other places, today it will minimize the crowding of tourist facilities. In addition, it will encourage all people who love Bloudan and Zabadani to return to the good days that used to be in Bloudan and Zabadani," he said.
Syrian rebels reached a deal with the government to evacuate Zabadani in exchange for the evacuation of rebel fighters and civilians from the towns of Kefraya and al-Foua, in the north of Syria.
The people of Bloudan now hope that the village can return to its former glory and become a bustling holiday destination once more.
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