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French Version

ASEZA rally tour operators to Aqaba

Even in its calmest of seasons, there is an abiding sense that Aqaba is on its way to becoming a prime destination for Jordanian tourists. This in mind, the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) called on tour operators to promote Aqaba to the local tourists as the seafront city embarks on a series of unprecedented investment projects to leverage its tourism industry.

Head of the ASEZA Tourism Division Ghassan Nasser reiterated the need for better cooperation between the Authority and local Jordanian operators in developing special tour programs for locals to Aqaba and the Golden Triangle, which includes Petra and Wadi Rum. “As we move forward with our efforts to market Aqaba locally, I believe the time has come to involve tour operators in promoting local visits to the sea city,” says Nasser.

The main goal, observers say, is to develop a sustainable local tourism industry in Aqaba were tour operators play a major role with ASEZA and other concerned government entities. “I’ve noticed lately several newspaper advertisements by tour operators offering trips to Aqaba, but these are only one-day excursions,” says Ahmad Bashiti, executive director of the Jordan Inbound Tour Operators Association (JITOA). “I think the major problem is that local tourists do not prefer to go through tour operators when they plan a trip to Aqaba and the Golden Triangle, they think they can get a better deal if they book directly,” Bashiti explains.

Access to information about available programs and latest trip offers is another aspect tour operators believe need to be developed in cooperation with ASEZA. “The development of the www.aqaba.jo website is a step towards providing tourists and tour operators alike with the required information about Aqaba—from the latest trip programs, cultural activities, water sport events, to contact info, maps and directions,” Nasser points out. Another key attraction tour operators have yet to capitalize on is MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions). This corporate tourism has been growing at a rapid rate in the world in the last 10 years. “Tour operators need to capitalize on the opportunities this emerging sector holds,” says Nasser. “Aqaba may not pose today as your typical MICE destination but consider the latest $5 billion investment project being developed in the city.

Together with all the other development projects, Aqaba will no doubt be bustling with businessmen and corporate executives and that means MICE will become an indispensable factor in the Aqaba experience,” Nasser explains. “I believe the Aqaba potential is yet to be tapped by the majority of tour operators in Jordan as they see no real profit behind it,” says Bashiti.

“What we need is better cooperation with the hotel industry in terms of working hand-in-hand with tour operators on issues related to accommodation, price, and commission,” Bashiti continues. Wendy Botham, GM of Petra Moon Tourism Services, sees a growing potential in Aqaba that still needs to be fleshed out into a marketable product. “ASEZA is perhaps the best entity in Jordan as far as developing marketing and incentive schemes,” says Botham. “Once we have some genuinely interesting experiences to offer, I expect that their efforts will pay off even better than they have already,” she explains.

The recent economic developments taking place in Aqaba, observers say, will no doubt help take local tourism to the next level. “We still need to bring our act together, work more closely with tour operators, and entities like the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture, and even the rest of the governorates in the kingdom,” says Nasser.

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