Jordan tourism suffers huge blow from coronavirus

About 30% of reservations have been cancelled.
Sunday 08/03/2020
Passengers receive brochures that contain medical tips to prevent coronavirus at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan March 4. (Reuters)
Passengers receive brochures that contain medical tips to prevent coronavirus at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan March 4. (Reuters)

AMMAN - As Jordan confirmed its first coronavirus case — a Jordanian who had recently visited Italy — its tourism sector was feeling brunt of the virus outbreak.

Conferences, lectures, workshops, sporting events and rallies around Jordan, including the much-anticipated first Arab Forum for Tourism Investment planned for March 14, have been cancelled or postponed,

Hotels and tour operators reported a large number of booking cancellations. The Jordan Society of Tourism and Travel Agents (JSTA) said about 30% of reservations had been cancelled.

“Most alarming is that there is no demand by tourists who used to reserve their trips several months ahead. The whole world is in a state of anticipation to what will happen next with the coronavirus,” JSTA President Mohammad Samih stated.

Tourist operators say more cancellations were expected.

“We used to have a fully booked summer season by tourists from China, Europe, the United States and the Gulf countries but, with the global scare of coronavirus, many have cancelled or postponed their bookings of hotel rooms and tours,” said Murad Ghsoun, owner of Skygate Travel Agency.

“This has affected everyone working in the tourism sector. If travel restrictions from and to Asia continue then the business is in real danger.”

Jordan took precautionary measures at airports, including installing fixed and manual thermal scanners to detect arrivals with high temperatures or other symptoms of coronavirus contamination.

Data from the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) showed revenues from tourism during January reached $501.3 million, an increase of 11.4%, over January 2019.

However, that was before the virus outbreak expanded out of China.

“There is no doubt tourism will suffer and as operators in the sector we have felt the negative effect on our businesses since the outbreak of the virus. I fear that we will have some harsh times ahead,” said Hassan Ababneh, owner of a resthouse near the coastal city of Aqaba.

Petra Development and Tourism Regional Authority Chief Commissioner Suleiman Farajat said that, despite the effects of the coronavirus on global tourism, in the city of Petra “the total number of visitors in February 2020 reached 81,406, compared with 74,413 last year.”

After the first case of coronavirus appeared in Jordan, things took a downturn.

Tareq Tweisi, head of the Petra Hotels Owners Society, noted that booking cancellations started in the past few weeks. “So far, cancellations have reached around 35% and we expect more cancellation of prior reservations to happen in the coming months,” Tweisi said.

“Petra had a great two months at the beginning of the year but now things are different and the cancellations are making everyone working in tourism worry that things will stagnate everywhere,” he added.

Last year, approximately 40,000 Chinese tourists visited Jordan but none visited in February 2020 compared to 5,000 in the same month last year.