Interivew: Nidal Katamine
Tourism is a major contributor to GDP in Jordan. What plans are there to further develop and expand tourist activities in the Dead Sea?
NIDAL KATAMINE: There are currently plans in place to develop several different areas and sites in an effort to adhere to the high standard of quality that we have set for ourselves all around Jordan. We are always striving to maintain and improve our offerings in order to accommodate visitors from all across the world and all walks of life.
That is why there have been several development projects under way at the Dead Sea and elsewhere that are tailored to fit the needs of every traveller, from backpackers to the luxury seeker. At the Dead Sea, in particular, there have been several recent projects that include two brand new five-star hotels, five four-star hotels and three three-star hotels, as well as a couple of serviced apartments that include access to restaurants and cafes.
We understand the importance of the Dead Sea as a world-renowned destination and have therefore invested a lot of time and effort in its development and infrastructure. Besides being a relaxation spot, a traditional leisure and wellness destination, as well as a significant religious site, there have been several initiatives to add an adventurous flavour to the mix through skydiving and other extreme sports.
What is the breakdown between foreign and domestic tourists in Jordan? On the international side, which countries or regions present the most potential for growth?
KATAMINE: Jordan is blessed with a very diverse mix of international and domestic tourists. The area generally enjoys a large presence of foreign travellers during high tourism season and a large number of both domestic tourists and expatriates during the summer and public holidays. This is especially advantageous for the tourism industry, as it means that it is busy with plenty of visitors throughout the year.
We enjoy great relationships with several countries that act as major exporters of tourists every year. These range from the US, Russia and the UK to several Arab Gulf countries. These markets are constantly maintained through various campaigns, but we are striving to grow in other areas such as the East Asia, Eastern Europe and South America. Our research indicates that people from these areas appreciate a good vacation spot where they can enjoy some sunshine and lounge on the beach, but also get something cultural, and possibly religious, from their travel experience.
Given the issues of instability and conflict currently being faced in the Middle East region, how important is it for Jordan to promote itself as a stand-alone destination?
KATAMINE: Regional instability has affected inbound tourism numbers in Jordan, due to the misperception of the Middle East in general and Jordan in particular. In order to mitigate this, the government is making a substantial effort to put together an action plan for its tourism sector.
We are marketing Jordan in a non-traditional way, for example, as a stand-alone destination, and encouraging more charter flights and low-cost carriers to start flying to the country from Eastern Europe. This new approach should help attract new unaffected markets that hopefully will drive growth in our tourism sector.
We are confident that our international marketing plans and promotions will continue to be successful since Jordan boasts a tourism experience that cannot be rivalled anywhere else in the world.
With attractions and sites that range from classic history and cultural offerings – such as UNESCO World Heritage site Petra, the site of Jesus’s baptism on the Jordan River and the ancient Roman city of Jerash – to leisure and fun at the Dead Sea, each location and experience plays into several niche markets.
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