Syria is not a hot tourist destination at the moment. 150,000 people have been killed in the conflict and Bashar al-Assad’s regime has made a rightfully deplorable name for itself in the international community.
In a blog post by Neal Rosendorf on USC’s public diplomacy blog, he explores Syria’s future ability to restore its image and the image of al-Assad. As a case study, Rosendorf compares al-Assad’s current position to that of Spain’s ex-dictator, Francisco Franco.
After WWII, Spain was an “impoverished, inward-focused pariah state.” With no allies or friends, Spain found itself on the outside. Franco understood that the only way to move-up in the eyes of its fellow states, it would have to befriend the United States.
To do so, Franco used American PR agencies to make Spain into a top tourist-destination; he hired a full-time lobbyist in Washington; and talked repeatedly to American journalists about wanting to foster a partnership with America.
Twenty years later, Spain had become an American Ally against the Soviet Union and had become a favorite destination for American tourists.
This raises the question of whether or not al-Assad can adopt a similar strategy in years to come. Rosendorf argues that Spain was willing to make changes to its regime to make it more appealing, while Syria is not. However, al-Assad can argue that he is standing up against radical Islam. In the end, it will all come down to the al-Assad regime’s willingness to change.