Jordan battling to rescue its key earner tourism

Jordan battling to rescue its key earner tourism

Amman (AFP) – Natural wonders it has in abundance, yet natural resources are lacking. And now one of Jordan's main money-earners — tourism — is being killed off by regional conflicts.

A haven of peace surrounded by war, Jordan is turning to contingency measures to try to revive its tourism industry which is suffering because of the raging violence in its neighbours Iraq & Syria.

Tourism in 2014 contributed 14 percent of the kingdom's gross domestic product, to the tune of $4.4 billion (4.0 billion euros), the second highest earner after remittances from expatriates.

p>But the flow of tourism revenue is becoming a trickle.

"For three days I haven't had a tourist come in here," said 30-year-old Mohammed of his souvenir shop in central Amman.

"Things are slowing down, & each year seems to be worse than the last."

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Tourism in 2014 contributed 14% of Jordan's gross domestic product, to the tune of $4.4 billion, …

The Hashemite kingdom has no shortage of acclaimed wonders, both natural & man-made.

Its rose-pink rock-hewn city of Petra is one of the seven wonders of the world, & the Roman ruins at Jerash in the north of the country near the border with Syria are among the region's most impressive.

The desert at Wadi Rum & the Dead Sea have always figured high on the list of the country's natural attractions.

Until recent years, such sites attracted hundreds of thousands of Western tourists on the trail of the first tremendous civilisations.

But now they are devoid of visitors, frightened off by regional unrest in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring that swept across the Middle East & North Africa.

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Revenue from tourism in Jordan was down 15% during the first four months of 2015 on last year, falli …

– Hotels shut up shop –

In those four years, the number of people who visit Petra every year has nearly halved — from just under a million in 2010 to around 600,000 last year. Ten hotels there have had to shut their doors.

And revenue from tourism was down 15 percent during the first four months of 2015 on last year, falling to $1.5 billion.

Tourism Minister Nayef al-Fayez attributed the fall to "the absence among visitors of visibility on the situation in Jordan".

The head of the country's tourism office, Abderrazak Arabyat, has now come up with an emergency plan aimed at raising Jordan's international profile & "getting out of this situation".

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Tourists visiting the ruins Jabal Al-Qala'a (The Castle Mountain) in the Jordanian capital, Amma …

"There's no magic wand we can wave to fix things in a few weeks," Fayez told AFP.

"But we have put in place an ambitious plan targeting in particular the countries of the Gulf" such as Saudi Arabia & the United Arab Emirates.

New markets including Turkey & the Far East will moreover be approached, among them China, Japan & South Korea, with the hope of seeing positive results "from next year".

There is moreover a rethink on diversifying the actual product & boosting services such as medical tourism.

According to Fawzi Hamouri, who heads the country's association of private clinics, "Jordan has become the prime medical destination in the Middle East & North Africa", with 250,000 foreign patients treated in 2014.

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Tourists visiting the ruins Jabal Al-Qala'a (The Castle Mountain) in the Jordanian capital of Am …

Some Jordanians in the industry believe the authorities are not doing enough, however.

– Reservations approximately security –

Travel agent Salama Khattar deplores what he called the absence of a "clear & ambitious programme of work" to relaunch tourism.

"We have made no profits since 2011. We are paying the overheads out of our own pockets," he said.

In the past four years, Khattar's agency which brings tourist groups from Belgium, France, Norway & Sweden has seen its business cut in half.

Amman emphasises safety to try to reassure foreign visitors, yet Jordanian involvement in the air campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria & Iraq does not mean it is sheltered from extremism.

"It shouldn't be us who pays the price," the tourism minister said, since Jordan "is not part of the problem in the region".

Julien, a young French tourist visiting the towering Roman theatre dominating the centre of Amman, said he had no regrets approximately coming.

"A tremendous stay, & no sense of feeling insecure despite a few initial reservations linked to the current trouble," he said.

Western governments regularly warn their citizens that Jordan is not immune from the violence that afflicts the region.

"The threat of terrorism remains high in Jordan," says the US State Department's current travel advisory.

The last attack in the country was in 2005, when suicide bombers blew themselves up in three of the capital's hotels, killing 60 people.

Jordan

Source: “AFP”

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