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French Version

Tourism strategy vows better future

Jordan’s celebration of the World Tourism Day on Monday was exceptionally meaningful, as it coincided with the official launching of the National Tourism Strategy (2004-2010). The strategy is a public-private initiative endorsed by His Majesty King Abdallah earlier this year and aims at enhancing the Kingdom’s tourism sector on the long term.

It emphasizes four pillars that focus on: Strengthening tourism marketing objectives, supporting the development of tourism-related products, developing human resources, and providing effective institutional and regulatory frameworks.

Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Alia Hatough-Bouran said that the strategy “aims to reinvigorate the tourism sector in Jordan, which is perceived today as under-performing.” She noted that one of the main objectives for the strategy is “to double the annual contribution of the tourism sector to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” which is estimated for 2004 at less than JD 600 million—about 10 percent of Jordan’s GDP. “The strategy aims to intensify the influx of foreign tourists to 12 million for the coming six years, and to attract extra development projects that would generate JD 1.3 billion in receipts,” Bouran said in her opening speech at the launching ceremony, which was held under the Royal patronage. “These projects aim to create 51,000 new jobs and bring in more than JD 455 million in annual taxes,” she added. The National Tourism Council (NTC), which is chaired by Bouran, formulated the strategy, which also involved contributions from representatives of the private sector.

The minister made it clear that the strategy targets a wide range of niche markets, including cultural heritage, eco-tourism, health and leisure among others. “It is important to underline here the vital role of the private sector, as the strategy calls on building beneficial partnerships between the private and public sectors,” Bouran said. “Through such partnerships, we would certainly achieve our objectives to expand employment in the sector, along with better entrepreneurial opportunities, social benefits and profits for both the public and private sectors.” The strategy’s concept was first introduced one year ago, when King Abdallah called on the government and the private sector to work together to resuscitate the tourism sector in Jordan. In a brief reading of the strategy one would realize the impeding challenges that face the local tourism sector.

These challenges are related to political, economic and social reasons. Irish expert Matt Mcnulty, who consulted the NTC on its strategy, defined these challenges and said, “It is very important to have a total public belief in Jordan’s tourism and its products, and to believe in its own capabilities.” He pointed out that the main challenge for Jordan is to present itself properly to the world, not only through investments but also in the course of sightseeing and travel industry. “To become a world-class destination, you need to adopt a competitive approach to market Jordan to customers willing to pay a higher price for quality experiences,” he said. “Marketing and developing Jordan’s tourism can be through partnership between the public and private sectors, involving carriers, NGOs that are guided by policies and structures that facilitate cooperation and investor confidence.”

Overcoming the risk factor and developing cost-effective marketing approaches prioritized the challenges that face tourism in Jordan. Mcnulty indicated that foreign tourists often perceive Jordan to be “a high risk destination” for them to visit. “You need to recognize this factor and change it immediately,” he said. According to the strategy, “Jordan should develop a branded approach to its tourism marketing through 2010”. Such approach is recommended through a network of specialized tour operators, direct consumer advertising, web marketing, and direct promotional activity to companies and business associations.

Having said that, the strategy stated, “It is important to project budget figures that are realistic for producing world-class work, and then present it to the government for approval”. It said that tourism marketing is detached now from product development, something that badly affects Jordan’s touristic potential for growth. Among the main points raised was the vital role of the small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) involved in the tourism sector.

There are still no official statistics on the number of tourism-led SMEs in the Kingdom, but Bouran told The Star that these enterprises are “important integral elements for the betterment of tourism in Jordan.” She said that these enterprises are “highly attached to the development process.” Mcnulty noted that the strategy presents special programs and agendas for tourism-led SMEs by preparing them to be intensively involved in the development of tourism sector in Jordan. “There will be frequent workshops and constant training for SMEs to conform to the strategy’s requirements with regard to creating favorable partnerships, increasing the value of tourists and improving competitiveness and quality in tourism,” Mcnulty explained. Tourism experts believe that “individualization and in-depth segmentation of the tourists’ demand” are significant for SMEs to develop gradually.

Experts said that tourism-led SMEs in Jordan also need to secure a variety of services and ideas that propose innovative, specialized and authentic products. “It is increasingly difficult for SMEs to survive in markets where competition is fierce,” said Peter Keller, the Swiss expert on global tourism. “Many SMEs adopt a marketing strategy that focuses on repeat business, makes it difficult for them to change. The natural market strategy for Jordan is to highlight the uniqueness of its touristic products and services.” He emphasized that SMEs must develop their tourism-based businesses in terms of location and attraction. “These enterprises must cater for niche markets, where they can develop their own tourism policy that can create favorable framework conditions for the tourism industry as a whole,” Keller said. “SMEs in emerging markets, like Jordan’s, can develop, thrive and contribute to regional tourism development”.

Keller called on Jordanian tourism-led SMEs to enhance the “differentiation” strategy among them. “This strategy works for destinations because of the consumer’s need for change. The economic situation in Jordan necessitates SMEs to offer services through partnerships with others and marketing these as packages,” he said. Cooperation among SMEs was also underlined in the strategy, as “vital for the positioning and marketing of the services offered by these enterprises and a way for them to increase productivity and bring down their costs”. Jawad Abbassi, president of the Arab Advisors Group, indicated that tourism-led SMEs in Jordan need mostly to “enhance their outsourcing for clients and take advantage of technology efficiently”. He said that IT has become a “perquisite service” for tour and travel industry. “We have noticed lately that many of the SMEs in Jordan have already applied the Internet in their functions. They use it effectively.

However, we also noticed that many of the SMEs still refuse to apply technology for no particular reasons,” he said. Besides the Internet, Abbassi also said that mentalities of people managing the tourism-led SMEs must change and adapt to the latest developments on the global scale. Being the largest productive sector in Jordan, Bouran realizes well that none of the strategy’s pillars would be achieved if the legal and regulatory barriers were not revised and benchmarked efficiently. “It is true that not all the legislations pertaining to tourism have been revised, and we need to be sure these legislations are tackled properly to conform to the international standards. It is a top-down process; leaders must remain engaged and should follow through from planning to action,” she said.

Ghassan Joha
The Star

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