With a unified front, stakeholders in Jordan’s travel sector are working to build the destination’s profile. Panayiotis Markides reports.
A popular destination for centuries, Jordan boasts everything from exquisite natural and cultural assets, to an attractive business proposition and a well-known medical tourism industry.
As such, its tourism industry has built itself to capitalise on this: according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) report, Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2016 – Jordan, the travel and tourism sector provided a total contribution to Jordan’s GDP of $7,599 million, or 20 per cent of the destination’s GDP.
The report also revealed Jordan earned $5,011 million in visitor exports in 2015. This was gained from 3.8 million foreign visitors to the Kingdom welcomed that year, according to statistics provided by Jordan’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. According to WTTC, Jordan is predicted to welcome an estimated 3.9 million international visitors in 2016.
The respect that the tourism industry has for Jordan is juxtaposed by the regional instability beyond its borders that has blighted its arrivals, despite its impeccable safety record. Speaking exclusively to TTG, chairman, Jordan Hotel Association, Michael Nazzal remarked: “Jordan, the oasis of tranquillity in a turbulent region, has witnessed a decline in tourism for the past few years but has acted to reverse the situation.”
Thus, Jordan’s private and government sectors are ensuring the destination is placed on travellers’ itineraries in the capacity that it merits, as TTG discovered.
A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING
Giving an overview of the destination was director of sales and marketing, InterContinental Jordan, Ali Obeidat who told TTG: “Jordan was affected by the surrounding countries that are facing political unrest, however, we are a safe country and we have a positive and clear vision towards our country. Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) and the Ministry of Tourism are trying to implement the new marketing strategy to improve and increase the number of tourists to the destination.”
Area general manager – Jordan and general manager, Sheraton Amman Al Nabil Hotel, Iva Trifonov agreed, telling TTG: “Jordan remains a safe destination for travellers from different parts of the world, in addition to travellers coming from the GCC looking for a destination with a similar cultural background.”
To this end, Jordan holds appeal across a number of segments, from the dominant leisure segment to the business segment, centred in Amman.
Referring to the segments catered to at the property, Obeidat noted that InterContinental Jordan welcomes travellers from all destinations due to Amman’s business clout: “Amman is a corporate hub due to being secure and safe for all business travellers. We have established a great corporate environment for our business travellers.”
“Looking into the leisure side of the business, Americans and Europeans are and will still be our feeder markets,” he added.
Relaying to TTG what other markets are being targeted, Nazzal noted that JTB is turning its attention to the region to attract the GCC market. “The regional markets are growing as a feeder market to Jordan and campaigns are underway in the GCC countries to focus attention on Jordan and its offering. This campaign was launched during the ATM under the title ‘Yes it’s Jordan’. The campaign will promote Jordan on billboards, in shopping malls and on TV as well as radio stations throughout the region.”
Indeed, according to research undertaken by travel data platform Sojern, Jordan is expected to see travellers from the US as its top feeder market, followed by the UAE, the UK, Germany and France for the months of May 2016 – September 2016. WTTC’s data revealed that 86.7 per cent of inbound and domestic visitor spend comes from the leisure sector, pointing to the importance of the leisure sector and Jordan’s adeptness at catering to this.
Trifonov of Sheraton Amman Al Nabil Hotel highlighted the destination’s shifting popularity in new travel segments: “Jordan is emerging as a destination for adventure travel, medical travel and of course cultural travel. We are currently working with related parties in the tourism sector to further strengthen Jordan’s position in the latest travel trends and creating new packages and opportunities which is attractive to various types of travellers.”
With more focus on leisure travellers, operations manager, Abercrombie & Kent – Jordan, Salam Shaqdeeh agreed and informed TTG: “Adventure tourism has been picking up in Jordan for a while now. Visitors to Jordan see it in a different way other than the classical or biblical tours offered. Jordan is also becoming more popular as a destination for FITs.”
Adventure travel requires a range of fun and adrenaline-fuelled activities, and Nazzal highlighted some of these: “Several activities have recently taken place such as the Red Bull race, the Jordan Riders and the Jordan Rally, and many more activities, festivals and events are planned during Ramadan and the summer months.”
Already successful with the European, US and GCC markets, Jordan has been casting its net wider to welcome new travellers.This has come in the form of air agreements from national carrier Royal Jordanian and a number of other airlines.
Since the end of 2015, the Kingdom has welcomed flights from Ankara, Jakarta and Guangzhou as Royal Jordanian has sought to expand its network. Earlier this year, the carrier also signed a codeshare with Spanish low-cost carrier (LCC) Vueling to connect with the Spanish carrier’s network via its Rome and Barcelona hubs. Access to Rome also recently improved as Alitalia recently returned to the destination offering five direct flights weekly. Additionally, Turkish LCC Pegasus Airlines increased its frequency to Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA). QAIA reported 1,639,519 passengers arriving in Q1 of 2016, an increase of 8.5 per cent in year-to-date passenger traffic.
On the ground, Nazzal informed TTG that tourism investments in Jordan have been going strong and an additional 20 per cent more rooms are under construction. “New developments included properties managed by Jumeirah, Rotana, Fairmont, The St. Regis, W, Hilton and others.”
Trifonov shed some light on Starwood’s expansion plans to TTG: “For us at Starwood Hotels and Resorts, we are gearing up towards opening four new hotels in Jordan within these two years to accommodate the new demand being created.” The properties in Starwood’s pipeline include W Amman (March 2017), The Westin Saraya Aqaba (June 2017), The St. Regis Amman (June 2017) and Al Manara, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Saraya Aqaba (July 2017). Also in Aqaba, a Hyatt Regency was recently signed for in the Ayla Oasis Development.
Shaqdeeh also provided insight on the developments the destination is witnessing: “New hotels are being constructed, while some archaeological sites are being conserved and others are being excavated to discover new scopes of history and archaeology.
“The Ministry of Tourism also worked on facilitating the entry visa regulations for visitors to Jordan, whether they be groups or individuals, coming to Jordan individually or through a tour operator. Meetings are taking place with other exotic countries to promote Jordan. The public and private sectors are committed to promoting Jordan as a stand-alone destination in addition to being a multi-country tourist destination,” he concluded.
Filled with archaeological and cultural wonders, Jordan continues to take the right steps to ensure its tourism segment moves forward.