Keen holiday makers will be able to see history in the making, getting just half a mile from the fighting in Syria with a Russian tour company offering ‘Assad Tours’.
The bargain holidays will take tourists to some of the most dangerous live battlefields in the world for just $1,500 (£1,000) per person for five days. Organised by Russian tour agency Megapolis, the package includes flights, meals, hotels, and the use of a local guide.
Those taking the battlefield tours will be flown to Damascus, the capital of the rump Syrian government of Bashar Al-Assad, the British trained medical doctor. Megapolis have named the tours in honour of the beleaguered Syrian leader — although Mr. Assad has faced resistance from many Western leaders, he has remained a staunch ally of Russia.
The tours will commence next year, and the company is presently in the process of finding appropriate accommodation in country, and settling specifics with the Syrian embassy. Speaking to the Daily Mail, travel agent owner and tour organiser Anatoly Aronov said while customers would be taken to the front line, they would not be given guns — no doubt to the disappointment of some.
The tours aren’t just for Russians. British and Americans are welcome as well, although an understanding of the Russian language may be an advantage explains Mr. Aronov. He said the fact that many Syrians went to University in Russia before the war meant many locals had a good understanding of the language, and the heavy presence of Russian forces in Assad-controlled areas was an advantage.
“The company is not expecting to have any difficulties”, he said.
Regardless the Russian tourism authority has denied having received any requests for permits to make the trip from the company as of yet. Under Russian law it is illegal to sell travel to conflict zones where passenger safety can’t be guaranteed reports CNN.
When asked whether anyone would actually want to go on the tours, Mr. Aronov didn’t anticipate any problems. He said his customers would have to be crazy to want to go, but then again all tourists are crazy — “they are paying money for things they can see free on television”. It is anticipated most of the customers will be “educated and intelligent” men aged between 30 and 45 years old.
War tourism, and the desire to spectate conflicts as they are played out is not a new impulse, and individuals and groups have travelled to watch battles for hundreds of years. Russian civilians travelled to watch the great pitched battles fought in the open during the Crimean war of 1853–1856, and some battles of the American civil war were watched by tourists.