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July 4, 2008

Jordan looks to the region

How many tourists visited Jordan in 2007 and what are your forecasts for this year?

Last year was excellent for Jordan. As per the latest figures released, the country recorded just over 6.5 million visitor arrivals and indications for 2008 look even more promising. As a matter of fact 2008 has started off very well and beyond our expectations and we hope to build on it for 2009.


Nayef Al Fayez, MD, Jordan Tourism Board


Why do you think there has been this upward trend?

There are many influencing factors. For one, a lot of work has been done in identifying Jordan as a destination in many markets. Secondly, ever since Petra has become one of the New Seven Wonders of the World this has drawn world attention to Jordan, but more importantly, we do have the product to offer and great facilities and infrastructure to support it.

Now, the world is more aware of Jordan and what it has to offer and there is increasing interest in the country as a destination, which has further prompted us to look at sourcing more investment and investors within our tourism sector. Our members are also enthusiastic about this sector and want to be a part of it.

There has been a resurgence in Jordan as a destination not just in Europe and Asia but also in the Middle East. The regional market is also looking afresh at Jordan and this is very good for us.

What is the importance of the meetings and incentives sector?

Jordan started focussing on this sector a few years ago, and the meetings industry has become one of the most important niches within the tourism portfolio. We seriously entered this market with the building of the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre in the Dead Sea, which hosts the World Economic Forum, a world-class meeting with international implications and very high standards of requirements.

I am specifically referring to the example of the World Economic Forum, which was first held in Jordan and has been repeatedly hosted at the venue for the past few years. This is an indication of the confidence in the venue and the destination as well as the fact that Jordan can deliver on expectations, not just with the state-of-the-art facilities and service, but with the human element as well.

Which are your main target markets?

At present, we are in many destinations, but the one that we are trying to focus on now is the Gulf. Germany, France and Italy are our main feeder markets from Europe, though we need to do more. Going by the visitor figures, the US, Russia and Turkey have shown a significant increase. From the GCC, visitors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain top the list, but there is a lot of work to do in the other GCC states.

How are you promoting to the GCC market?

We have just started this process. Jordan and JTB had a prominent presence at the Arabian Travel Market in May in Dubai and we have introduced a number of packages to promote Jordan within the region.

How has the current devaluation of the dollar affected Jordan and its prospects?

This has definitely worked in our favour as people are looking to travel to Jordan where we offer value for money. Dubai, with its increasing cost and being one of the most expensive cities in the world, has provided us with an opportunity to come in and introduce Jordan as a new destination.

The Jordanian Dinar is actually pegged to the US Dollar and with the strong Euro, it makes it more attractive for Europeans to travel to Jordan. Even cost wise, coming to Jordan is not as expensive. We try to monitor all the meetings and conferences in Jordan and try to get a feedback on these aspects.



Are you going to focus on niche tourism markets?

In our national strategy, which was launched in 2004, meetings and incentives was one of the products we decided to focus on. History and culture, ecotourism, leisure and wellness, as well as health and medical tourism, are the various other products. Jordan is a small country but with unique products. So for meeting and incentive visitors we can enrich their experience by combining culture and ecotourism with leisure and wellness. That is why it is important to start working with the meeting planners well in advance so that these packages can be tailor-made for each group. For this purpose, we are bringing fam trips to Jordan so that they can understand the various product offerings and choose the one that best suits their clients.

With Jordan’s growing popularity, do you have enough hotel rooms?

The advantage of meetings and incentives is that they can be planned in off-peak seasons. There is that flexibility. Also, as we speak, there are many projects in the pipeline which will ease the accommodation shortage. For the long term, we are bringing in large foreign investments for larger tourism developments. I must emphasise here that Jordan is not looking for mass tourism. We are extremely careful about that. But the capacity that Jordan has today can still be expanded, so we have the luxury of bringing in more investors and having new developments.

As it develops into a hot destination, will prices increase?

We are still far away from that scenario. Prices are going up worldwide. However, though popularity is on the rise, prices in Jordan are very reasonable. The price factor has always been taken into consideration. Also, for what Jordan offers, I think the prices were initially quite low. We are on a par with many emerging destinations now. Jordan’s economy relies heavily on tourism and if the pricing policy is not right there are many lost opportunities.



What new developments will directly affect the meetings industry?

There are plans to have a new convention centre in Amman and a new facility in Aqaba in 2010. In addition there are other facilities which are within hotels.

Is Aqaba the emerging destination in Jordan?

Yes. There are many new hotel rooms being developed in Aqaba and, with the convention centre as well as the many outdoor opportunities, Aqaba is definitely the new destination in Jordan.

With Jordan pitching for large conventions, and new facilities, what is the status for a convention bureau?

This is being deliberated upon at the highest levels and JTB is one of the partners involved in the discussion. At the moment, pitching for and bringing large conventions to Jordan is part of the remit of the JTB, but we work in close cooperation with the convention centres as well, who are more directly involved in obtaining business. We are there to promote the destination as well as create awareness and provide necessary back-up.

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