Interview: Taha Al Zboun
What more can be done to change the perception that political instability within the region threatens Jordan’s safety and security?
TAHA AL ZBOUN: Despite external regional threats, Jordan has remained peaceful and stable, and continues to welcome visitors from all corners of the world. To reassure prospective visitors of the country’s safety, the government is developing a communication plan through the Jordan Tourism Board, using both conventional and social media channels to address misperceptions about the kingdom’s security. The plan will raise awareness of the kingdom as a hospitable country by highlighting the diversity of holiday options. From sites of historic and religious significance to the luxurious Dead Sea, Jordan has plenty to offer potential visitors.
What is Jordan’s strategy for the development of tourism around the Dead Sea?
AL ZBOUN: The Dead Sea’s eastern coast is one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world and has long been recognised as an international treasure. A series of new roads, hotels and archaeological discoveries combine to make this region as enticing to international visitors today as it was to kings, emperors, traders and prophets in antiquity.
A detailed master plan for the Dead Sea was launched in 2011. The plan is conceived as a series of interconnected and publicly accessible districts, each with its own activity node. Beyond the diverse range of development types – including tourism, mixed-use, commercial, institutional, health and logistics – a public transportation network has been planned to connect the districts. There will also be public beaches and parks overlooking the Dead Sea. Further to this, compact centres will offer public gathering areas to counterbalance the current development model of private hotels and waterfronts. A newly conceived corniche district will be an attractive public destination that can offer housing, hotels, restaurants, plazas and sustainable green spaces on the shore of the Dead Sea.
To what extent does the Dead Sea have the potential to become a centre for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE)?
AL ZBOUN: Jordan’s modern infrastructure is conducive for hosting high-profile meetings and events, with Queen Alia International Airport offering easy access to both Amman and the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea offers the biggest stand-alone convention centre in Jordan, King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre, which boasts a range of four-and five-star hotels, with a capacity of up to 3000 people. Expansion plans are in place to increase this figure to 6000 people in the next five years.
The convention centre, which is managed by Hilton, offers 27 room options for events and meetings, as well as built-in multimedia projectors, high-quality sound systems, video-conferencing systems, translation services, and wired and wireless microphone systems. King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre is working with neighbouring hotels under the Jordan Tourism Board to showcase the kingdom as an ideal MICE destination.
Which new projects involved with the Dead Sea provide opportunities for foreign investors?
AL ZBOUN: Within the Dead Sea Development Zone, there are numerous opportunities along the eastern and northern shore (the corniche district), including four-and five-star hotels and resorts, retail and mixed-use developments, eco-lodges, recreational facilities, conference centres and restaurants. Indeed, the Dead Sea Development Zone provides investors — whether Jordanian or foreign — with several attractive incentives, including full ownership and management of their businesses.
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