Jordan’s tourist arrivals, revenue show improvement

Tourists wishing to visit Jordan can benefit from Asfar, a free application for smart devices in Arabic and English.
Sunday 09/12/2018
A tourist takes pictures during a tour of the ancient city of Petra. (Reuters)
A unique experience. A tourist takes pictures during a tour of the ancient city of Petra. (Reuters)

AMMAN - Jordan is hoping to woo end-of-year tourists with a host of events and new services despite setbacks in which more than 4,000 tourists were evacuated after flash floods inundated the rose-red city of Petra, killing 11 Jordanians.

Heavy rains in October and November also claimed the lives of 21 people, mostly students, swept away during a field trip to the Dead Sea. Calls were made to cancel end-of-year celebrations following the incident, the deadliest in Jordan involving schoolchildren.

However, Jordan, which was listed by Lonely Planet as the sixth top travel destination of 2019, is determined to stay positive, said Abed Razzaq Arabiyat, managing director of the Jordan Tourism Board.

He said the number of tourists who visited Jordan in the first eight months of 2018 increased 12% compared to 9% in the same period in 2017 and revenues from tourism increased 14%. In the first six months of 2018, 2.3 million tourists visited Jordan compared to 2.1 million tourists in the same period in 2017.

“We are optimistic and thrilled to see that the efforts invested by the Jordan Tourism Board have been recognised by leading travel publication Lonely Planet, which has been guiding travel enthusiasts from every corner of the world for nearly 45 years,” he said.

Former Jordanian Tourism Minister Lina Annab, who resigned after the fatal floods, had stated: “Featuring sixth on such a prestigious, international and trusted publication is quite an achievement for Jordan.

“This nomination will play a pivotal role in increasing the number of new tourists to Jordan to explore this Middle Eastern time-old destination with a modern twist and will act as a reminder to those who’ve already visited Jordan that a revisit is due.”

Arabiyat noted that “the listing will promote Jordan as a hub for adventure through the Jordan Trail, where visitors can hike, bike or visit the lowest point on Earth at the Dead Sea. They can also camp in the Wadi Rum desert and marvel at the sky’s clear stars, visit the Nabatean Petra, one of the [New] Seven Wonders of the World or enjoy the Red Sea’s lush coral scene in Aqaba.”

Jordan’s Central Bank said tourism income increased to $4.5 billion during the first ten months of 2018 compared to $4 billion in the same period last year.

A general atmosphere of sadness related to the flood victims prevails, however. The public and officials have called for the cancellation of concerts planned for the festive season in the Dead Sea resorts. MP Sadah Habashneh wrote on his Facebook page: “We are not against art and joy, we wish happiness to all Jordanians but to have a concert for (Lebanese singer) Wael Kfoury at this time and location is unethical and unacceptable.”

Former MP Amjad Msalamani, however, welcomed the arrival of low-budget airlines Ryanair and EasyJet to Jordan as a positive sign but cautioned that “we need to study if these airlines will bring in tourists or just fly out Jordanians at cheap fares.”

Jordan’s tourism industry suffered a painful blow in 2016 when terrorists killed ten people, including a Canadian tourist, in Karak City’s historical castle. The incident prompted the government to double its efforts to bring back tourists.

“We need to be positive again and I think tourists are responding due to the various packages provided by the travel agents here in Jordan and abroad. In fact, we are forecasting positive results in the number of tourists visiting Aqaba, the Dead Sea and (the Jordan River) baptism site, “said Murad Ghsoun, owner of Skygate travel agency.

Tourists wishing to visit Jordan can benefit from Asfar, a free application for smart devices in both Arabic and English.

Asfar was developed by Yasser Mehyar, a journalist who said there was a need for an application that makes it easier for visitors to get to know the most famous tourist and archaeological sites in Jordan. It is the first location-based app for the country’s hotels and apartments.

“Asfar has it all from reserving a hotel and restaurant to finding touristic sites and events through the use of GPS technology and it serves the Arab and foreign tourists anywhere and provides them with all the info needed by simply using their smart devices,” Mehyar said.

Another recently introduced service targeting tourists and business travellers in Jordan is the Air Taxi.

“Today, we have the first Air Taxi service, which is similar to the services that can be found around the world, and tourists can really benefit from it to visit archaeological sites or Aqaba and Petra in a very short time and with great flexibility,” Ghsoun said.