BEIRUT: Syria's tourism minister has forecast a "prosperous tourist season" for the central province of Homs, despite three years of raging conflict that has flattened much of the provincial capital.
In remarks carried by the state news agency SANA, Bisher Yazigi pledged help for the area, predicting a prosperous tourism season because "various activities are planned... during the summer".
There was no word on what these activities might be.
The upbeat projection, published Saturday, comes as some 2,000 fighters and civilians holed up in besieged rebel-held parts of Homs city prepare to withdraw under a deal with the authorities.
After the withdrawal, the former rebel stronghold will be turned over to the government.
But both the city of Homs and many of its most famed destinations -- including the Krak des Chevaliers Crusader castle -- have suffered enormous damage during fighting.
The historic Old City of Homs, formerly a tourist attraction, has been reduced to little more than rubble, with homes, shops and religious sites pulverised in near-daily bombardment and fighting.
And the prospects of a flood of tourists into any part of the country, where a civil war has killed more than 150,000 people, would appear to be slim.