The Jordanian tourism industry is beginning to reap rewards from measures introduced in 2015 aimed at winning back regular visitors, particularly from the Gulf, and attracting other, first-time tourists.
Tourism has traditionally been a major contributor to the kingdom’s economy – accounting for around 13% of GDP – with Jordan’s abundant archaeological, religious and leisure offerings helping to attract a broad range of visitors.
However, the industry has faced significant external challenges in recent years, with arrivals dropping from more than 8.1m in 2010 to 5.3m in 2014, largely due to ongoing regional unrest.
“The biggest challenge we face in the short term is the misperception among some foreigners that Jordan is unsafe,” Nayef Al Fayez, the minister of tourism, told OBG earlier in 2015. “This is something that we are actively working to correct.”
To counter these headwinds, the government and private partners have doubled down on their commitment to developing tourism in the kingdom, and are working to encourage growth through targeted marketing, the introduction of new visitor incentives and ongoing expansion of transportation links.
This drive will continue into 2016, after the government approved a budget of JD37m ($52.1m) for marketing activities throughout the year.
As one of its main tourism promotion policies, the government has been working to lower the cost of visiting Jordan for targeted source markets.
A move to decrease visa fees for visitors entering via a land border crossing from JD40 ($56.3) to JD10 ($14) looks to be yielding results, with the number of Arab-Israeli visitors entering Jordan for a stay of more than three nights rising by 50% during the summer of 2015, according to Al Fayez.
In a further bid to attract tourists from the region, in late December the country extended an earlier decision to lower entry fees for Arab visitors at tourist and archaeological sites to match those charged to Jordanian nationals. The incentive scheme will now be applied through to the end of 2016.
Other cost incentives include a unified-entry ticket, known as the Jordan Pass, which was introduced by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA) in 2015.
The pass – which costs between JD70 ($99) and JD80 ($113), depending on the number of days visitors wish to spend at Petra – exempts purchasers from the country’s visa fee and grants them entry to key tourist areas and attractions across the country, including several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, at no extra cost.
Developments in the country’s aviation industry promise further cost savings, with charter airline Fly Jordan marking its first flight between Queen Alia International Airport and the Red Sea resort town of Sharm El Sheikh, in Egypt, in early January.
Increasing charter activity could help Jordan tap into niche markets in the region, such as international travellers looking for affordable side or day trips while visiting nearby countries. Other segments that the Jordan Tourism Board is targeting include religious tourism, for both Christians and Muslims; meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions; and ecotourism and adventure.
The country’s flag carrier Royal Jordanian has also been active in boosting Jordan’s air connectivity, signing an interline agreement with Spain’s low-cost carrier Vueling Airlines in December 2015. The deal is expected to open connections to more than 200 cities via Vueling’s Mediterranean hubs in Barcelona and Rome.
Figures from MoTA seem to suggest that the government’s efforts were beginning to yield results late in the year. While arrivals saw a general decline in the first half of the year, third-quarter arrivals were up 3.6% y-o-y, possibly hinting at the beginning of a turnaround.
Speaking to local media in late December, Al Fayez, the minister of tourism, underscored the positive impact of national efforts to kick-start the industry’s recovery, citing an expected rise in tourism numbers by the end of the fourth quarter.
According to Al Fayez, the government will also be looking to sync its tourism promotion strategy with the broader Vision 2025 development plan, released in mid-2015.
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