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French Version

Tourism on the rise

Despite a decline in Arab and Gulf visitors, 2007 marked a year of steady growth for Jordan’s tourism sector, with revenues increasing by over 13 percent.

According to numbers released by the central bank, tourism revenues, which comprise 10 percent of the kingdom’s GDP, jumped by 13.4 percent to nearly $2.11 billion during the first eleven months of 2007, a sizeable increase over the approximately $1.86 billion from the same period in 2006.

The growth in revenues came in spite of a noticeable drop in the number of Arab and Gulf tourists to the kingdom, notably from Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Figures from the ministry of tourism revealed that visitor arrivals in Jordan fell from 3.17 million in 2006 to 3 million in 2007. The number of Arab visitors fell by nearly 7 percent in 2007, a drop of over 1 million. Gulf and Arab tourists traditionally account for over 50 percent of total visitors.

Tohama Nabulsi, communications manager for the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB), told OBG, “Although we have a decrease in total number of tourists, we have a tremendous increase in tourism receipts in 2007. We are very aware of the decrease in 2007 in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) market [...] It is a very challenging year for the Jordan Tourism Board as the resources are minimal compared to competing countries in the region, but we will work on allocating them in the most efficient way possible.”

The drop in Arab visitors was somewhat offset by an increase in tourists from other regions. Officials have focused heavily on cultivating links with Europe, North America and Asia, a policy that has paid off visibly in recent months.

The biggest jump came from European arrivals, who constituted 16 percent of the total visitors to Jordan. According to the Ministry of Tourism, the number of travelers from the EU grew by over 37 percent during the first 11 months of 2007. Similarly, the length of stay for European visitors, which currently averages around 4 days, has also been increasing during the high season. Numbers from the Asia Pacific region grew by over 9 percent in the same period, while American arrivals were up by around 4 percent.

Tourism has always been a linchpin in Jordan’s economy and it has grown at an admirable pace. The country received a major shot in the arm with the declaration of the Nabatean city of Petra, already one of the country’s primary draws, as one of the new wonders of the world by the New 7 Wonders Foundation. The government has also launched a $70 million campaign to restore and beautify five of Jordan’s historical cities, including Madaba, Karak, Salt, Jarash and Ajloun.

While Jordan has plenty of traditional sights to see, niche tourism in the Kingdom is also on the rise. Nayef Al-Fayez, the managing director of the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB), told OBG, “Jordan offers a lot of niche sectors for tourism and, as a result, the JTB is focusing on growing interest in MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions), medical tourism, eco-tourism and religious tourism, particularly from regions like North America, Europe and the GCC.”

The Dead Sea is attracting increasing attention from health and wellbeing tourism. A number of resorts are now slated to open along the shores of the famous body of water, including Dubai-based developer Emaar Properties’ $500 million Samarah Dead Sea Golf and Beach Resort. Jordan’s reputation as a regional health destination has led the government to set an objective of $1 billion in health tourism revenues by 2010.

Meanwhile the MICE sector has also grown rapidly, with a range of new and improved facilities catering to business travelers. The King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center, which boasts 25 conference halls and a 2,000 sq m exhibition area alongside the Dead Sea, opened in 2005 and has since hosted the World Economic Forum, the United Nations Anti-Corruption Forum and the Rebuild Iraq Exhibition.

The Star

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