Tourism in Jordan

The growth of tourism in the first six months of 2010 was 30%, and in tourism receipts it was 28%.

Interview with Nayef Al Fayez, Managing Director of Jordan Tourism Board

Nayef Al Fayez

 How do you assess Jordan’s tourism and what is the outlook for 2010?

 What we have seen in the first six months of 2010 is an indication of how things will be in Jordan. The history of tourism is relatively new here, but there has been an increase in the numbers of arrivals and the tourism receipts.  In 2004 there was a National Tourism Strategy put in place with certain targets to reach by 2010; those targets were fulfilled in 2007! The growth of tourism in the first six months was 30%, and in tourism receipts it was 28%.

Is it a cause for concern that tourism makes up such a huge part of the economy, if there were to be a change in Jordan’s geographical or political position?

No, Jordan has been an oasis for peace and stability for many years. We are very proud of our location in the heart of the world and the Middle East, but misperceptions about us cause things to backfire. These misperceptions can be overcome with the promotion of the image of Jordan by their Highnesses and the positive feedback we receive from tourists to Jordan when they leave.

Photo – Jordan Tourism Board

How do you see the evolution of the hotel industry in Jordan? Is there space for 5-star and luxury development in this country?

There is more space for investment both in 5 star hotels, as well as 3 and 4 star hotels. Jordan is relatively new to the tourism industry. The demand in the past 6 months gives an indication that we are still receiving more and more people, and are still in need of more projects to cater to this. Jordan will not become a mass-tourism destination; Jordan is a niche destination focused on niche products starting with history and culture to leisure and wellness, ecotourism, religious tourism, and fun and adventure.

Abu Dhabi is now focusing on making the Emirates the cultural center for the region. How do you stand out and deal with the competition with other regional destinations?

Jordan has a mild climate throughout the year; we don’t have harsh winters or summers. That gives us a very big advantage over other countries. Jordan is also not humid, which is another advantage. But the biggest advantage is that Jordan is located at the heart of the world, is very easy to reach, and has a very small geographical area but with a big, diverse product. Petra became one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but it is not the only attraction that brings people to Jordan. The Dead Sea is truly a unique place; it is the largest natural spa that exists in the world and is the lowest point on Earth. Bethany Beyond the Jordan ,the Baptism site of Jesus is where Christianity started, in addition to many other sites that Jordan offers to its visitors to experience  . Jordan has many other unique experiences to offer. You will always have an added-value with Jordan, hence our slogan « Jordan Takes You Beyond. »

How do you see Jordan’s capacity to achieve sustainable tourism?

This is where I talk about the new projects that we have coming up. Some places are once in a  lifetime experiences. Petra alone needs several days to be discovered. If you go to Mount Nebo or Bethany Beyond the Jordan, there is always that spiritual feeling that attracts you. Ecotourism, the nature reserves, interacting with the local communities that we are focusing on today – you can’t fulfill your needs with just one visit. You need many, many visits to Jordan.  There are always discoveries here – it’s just the beginning! Most important are the people of Jordan; the hospitality that they are known for is another added-value that makes people come back.

Dead SeaPhoto – Jordan Tourism Board

What are the major challenges for the tourism industry in Jordan? Would it be changing the perceptions in the West, or perhaps becoming a victim of your own success?

I don’t think we will become the victim of our own success because we are very careful about what we do. We have a National Tourism Strategy started in 2004 ; today we are updating it to meet the coming 5 years. We always look at other people’s mistakes and try to avoid them, learning from our own as we move ahead. We truly suffer from misperceptions.  For example, being lumped together as one place under the label « The Middle East ». The other thing is that because we are in the Middle East, people think Jordan is too hot in the summertime, whereas today Jordan has very much Mediterranean weather but without the humidity. It is something we should be promoting.

How do you change these misperceptions?

We have succeeded in moving forward in counteracting misperception about security and stability, but the weather misperception is something we are still working on. Word-of-mouth is the best way to change the image, so we work hard to provide the best experience for our guests. We send the right message through people.

Can you shed more light on the National Tourism Strategy, the five year plan, and the markets you hope to attract?

The NTS focuses on niche products, like religious tourism, leisure and wellness, fun and adventure, and so on. We are focusing on our regional markets, in particular the GCC markets in the summertime for their family vacations because of the wonderful weather. We do have our traditional markets in Europe and we continue to work on attracting those visitors, as well as visitors from the US and Canada. Now we are also focusing on the East, going into Asia. We opened an office in India and are working towards China and Japan. Conference and international events is an important aspect we are focusing on. We successfully hosted a number of international events in state-of-the-art convention centers, such as the World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea, for the fifth time.

What is your value-proposition compared to having a conference in say, Qatar or Dubai?

We are strategically located within a range of 3-and–a-half-hours to most European countries and 2-and–a-half-hours to most Arab countries. Jordan is a meeting point. Safety, stability, and security are other important elements that attract people. We are an open country with good relations with the rest of the world. Accessibility to Jordan is also easy, and the facilities that exist here are state-of-the-art and accommodate everything from small groups to groups of 3,000 participants. There are professional Jordanian teams here. We are financially competitive, but competitiveness is not only how much you pay but what you can get in return. Our diversity caters to different people and countries, so our strength comes from that diversity. Diversity helped us overcome the difficulties in 2009 and resulted in Jordan having an increase of 1.6%  in total number of arrivals  where most of the countries in the world saw a drop in their overnight arrivals during that year. So that shows you the strength Jordan has.

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