Jordan: Highlighting tourism

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Boosting growth in the tourism sector is high on the government’s agenda for 2012, and country officials are working to display the country’s myriad entertainment offerings in a variety of high-profile events even amidst ongoing regional instability.

Indeed, Jordan’s tourism sector suffered in 2011 largely due to a misperception that instability in other parts of the region meant the Kingdom was in turmoil as well, according to Nayef Al Fayez, the minister of tourism and antiquities. During the first eight months of 2011, for example, total arrivals declined by 20%, and the sector achieved gross revenues of $2.63bn, some 16.5% less than in the same period in 2010. This came partially on the back of a 17% decrease in European visitors.

To ensure this trend does not continue, the government is making a concerted effort to highlight the country’s many attractions. These include the city of Amman, the Dead Sea, specialty resorts under construction and the world famous ruins at Petra, which are celebrating the 200th anniversary of their rediscovery this year.

High-profile events include the Discover Jordan Rally Tour, held May 24-26. The event, which was organised by iSport and sponsored in part by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MTA), saw car enthusiasts, families, tourists and others participating in a drive through Jordan’s many touristic destinations, such as Jerash, the Dibeen Forest, Karak Castle and Petra. Meanwhile, Wadi Rum, a valley that covers 720 sq km and boasts several attractions, will play host to a three-week national skydiving event in June.

Amman’s historic Rainbow Street has recently been the focus of international attention, with Agence France Presse noting in May that, “After decades of oblivion, the street in the historic area… has undergone a facelift, rejuvenating the once sleepy neighbourhood.”

Noting the street’s new restaurants, galleries, cafes and its revitalised souk, the news agency determined the $7m renovation had created “one of Amman’s trendiest nightspots”.

In the Dead Sea region, the opening of a new resort should also boost tourism numbers. The Dead Sea Lagoon, a $160m investment, will include more than 1000 housing units on a 3-ha lagoon, surrounded by private beaches and palm trees. Crystal Lagoons and Sama Jordan are working together to develop the resort. Other speciality resorts are being developed as well, including a $1.5bn Star Trek-themed resort in Aqaba.

Specific to Petra, the government has launched a major advertising push to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the site’s rediscovery this year. The MTA has exhibited a new three-dimensional view of the site at a number of different trade fairs, including London’s World Travel Market in November 2011 and the ITB Berlin show in March 2012. In addition to 16 co-exhibitors that included hotel and tour operators, Al Fayez spoke on a number of international tourism panels to further promote Jordan’s tourism offerings.

Petra is also the source of inspiration for a new specially designed garden, commissioned by the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) for the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, held annually in London. The “Discover Jordan” garden will be designed by Paul Hervey-Brookes, an English garden and landscape designer, and is being sponsored by both the JTB and Cox & Kings, a tour operator. At 308 sq metres, the garden will be largest feature in the show’s “World of Gardens” section.

The advertising push may already be showing some signs of success, as Jordan has posted improved tourism numbers thus far in 2012. According to the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ), revenue in the first four months of 2012 stood at $1.09bn, a 10.5% increase compared to the $987.89m earned over the same period in 2011. In the month of April alone, growth was even more pronounced, with data from the CBJ showing a 20.6% increase in revenues compared to April 2011.

The rise has been attributed to an increasing number of tourists from Libya, Iraq, the US and Saudi Arabia. This, combined with an expected increase in European numbers due to the advertising push in Europe, means the sector may well be looking forward to a more prosperous 2012.

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