Interview: Lina Annab

How much emphasis is being placed on improving air connectivity and accessibility to Jordan?

LINA ANNAB: Air connectivity is a key area we are focusing on given its impact on unlocking economic growth by attracting business investment and spurring tourism, two areas that are vital to Jordan’s economic prosperity. We are working to enhance air connectivity through special offers and new routes with our national flag carrier, Royal Jordanian. In addition, we have recently stepped up our efforts to attract budget airlines to enhance air accessibility, while also providing travellers from important source markets greater choice and value-for-money offerings to fly to Amman and Aqaba.

Which source markets are being targeted, and what types of tourism are being promoted?

ANNAB: The GCC, Europe and the US are major markets for Jordan, and recently we have also enhanced our marketing and promotion efforts in new areas, such as the Asia-Pacific region. Each of these markets has its own characteristics and we take those into full consideration in our marketing plans. In doing so we have adopted a demand-driven approach that emphasises the experiences and types of tourism on offer. The diversity of Jordan’s tourism product allows us to target four types of tourism, for which there is growing demand and in which Jordan has a significant competitive advantage. These segments are religious, adventure, medical and MICE. Product development is well under way for each type of tourism.

How important is it for the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA) to promote both the religious and domestic tourism segments?

ANNAB: It is a top priority, especially if we consider the historical, cultural and archaeological depth, as well as the significant Islamic and Christian landmarks present in our country. Relatively speaking, domestic tourism is quite underdeveloped compared to inbound tourism. Religious and adventure tourism represent two areas in which we can enhance domestic tourism by developing products and domestic experiences. In 2017 tourism revenue amounted to JD3.3bn ($4.66bn), while domestic tourism only accounted for an estimated JD100m ($141.1m). This bodes well for new investment and product development opportunities. Developing domestic tourism targets micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises that can stimulate growth and job creation in communities inside and outside of urban areas. The MoTA is also working on identifying projects that have catalytic effects on rural revitalisation and community-based tourism development. An example of such projects is the Jordan Trail, a national hiking and biking trail that passes through many governorates and 52 villages. We are now working on developing an investment map that identifies the needs of each community along the trail in terms of business opportunities, training and financing.

What role does the MICE segment play in the development of the tourism sector?

ANNAB: MICE is a major area of focus, as it constitutes 12-15% of travellers around the world. It also generates revenue along the entire value chain of the tourism sector, including exhibition centres, hotels, restaurants and transportation. Many MICE visitors don’t come solely for business purposes, but also for pleasure, so our goal is to showcase what Jordan has to offer to all conference visitors. There is already robust infrastructure available to host major conferences, such as the World Economic Forum on MENA, which was last held in May 2017 at the Dead Sea.

Jordan also hosted other major meetings that year, including the Arab League Summit, the AdventureNext Near East conference and two UN World Tourism Organisation conferences. To tap into this potential the Jordan Tourism Board recently established the Convention Bureau to act as a one-stop shop for MICE organisers.