As tourism numbers increase and new trends emerge, industry players are adapting their approach, allowing Jordan to maintain its position as a firm favourite in the Middle East. Tatiana Tsierkezou writes.
Over recent years, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan – a country that is on almost everyone’s bucket list – has enticed an ever-increasing number of adventure travellers and culture junkies, all of whom visit to absorb incomparable culture, take in awe-inspiring sights and experience the warmth of the welcoming locals.
According to statistics released by Trading Economics, the number of tourist arrivals to Jordan increased by 3.7 per cent year-on-year to 588,1000 in March of 2017 – hot on the heels of an impressive 6.7 per cent increase the previous month. The statistics additionally depicted that the number of visitors increased the most from Indonesia (+117.8 per cent), the US (+11.4 per cent) and Saudi Arabia (+0.2 per cent).
Commenting on the transcendent charm of the Kingdom was director of operations Levant, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and general manager, InterContinental Jordan, Michael Koth: “Jordan was, is and always will be a touristic magnet. The magnitude of our historical sites, which are only three- hours’ drive from each other, is amazing.”
Highlighting his confidence in the aforementioned rise in travellers, he added: “So far 2017 looks promising and we are very optimistic, as the exposure of a new market has given us a lot of hope for more growth. Therefore, there is a complete plan to adapt our offerings and products to meet this segment’s expectations, which will reflect positively on the market collectively.”
Also reflecting on the heightened frequency of visitors and positive figures was cluster general manager, Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea and Kempinski Hotel Aqaba Red Sea, Sebastien Mariette: “Last year was a year of great achievements and 2017 kicked off very well, I have to say. Jordan has a lot of potential, and given its strategic location, stability and great weather, I believe that it will remain the centre of attention in this region.”
And as one of the most coveted destinations in the Middle East, Jordan and its tourism industry are forever picking up on changes, whether subtle or dramatic, that are making tourism movers and shakers reassess their priorities.
Speaking to TTG exclusively about these shifts in the industry was director of sales and marketing, Crowne Plaza Amman, Ziad Fostuq: “Jordan has a lot to offer and is now focusing on all tourism aspects, such as adventure, cultural, religious as well as MICE. With regards to trends, the booking window has become very narrow, whereby most travellers, especially from the business segments, are mainly last minute. Furthermore, the MICE segment is growing dramatically. Thankfully, as Jordan is very stable, we have seen growth in leisure tourism and from new markets such as Asia.”
Fostuq explained that following this noticeable rise in visitors from Asia, Crowne Plaza Amman has in turn adapted its offering to cater to this market’s preferences.
“We have introduced special dishes during breakfast to match the requirements of our Asian guests,” he shared.
But it’s not just Crowne Plaza Amman that has picked up on this heightened interest from Asia. According to Koth, all seven IHG properties in the Hashemite Kingdom have been increasing in popularity among travellers from this fruitful market.
“Asian and more specifically Chinese travellers have discovered the jewel of Jordan and are coming in increasingly high numbers. Religious travel groups equally come from Southeast Asia to discover the Dead Sea, visit the special historical sites and continue their travels across the border,” he told TTG.
Speaking more generally, Koth went on to underline other intrinsic trends that must be kept in mind: “Today, travellers are focusing on five-star hotels predominantly, although the spending habit is less. We have clearly identified a return to luxury and provide our discerning customers with more services and enhanced arrival and farewell experiences. We have defined a new level of luxury in our Club Lounges, and most of us know that luxury today is defined by time and space, both of which are offered in the Club Lounges of our InterContinental hotels.”
Sharing Koth’s view on the rise in demand for luxury experiences was Mariette, who said: “At Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea and Kempinski Hotel Aqaba we have witnessed a growth in high-end tourism. It is important for Jordan to be promoted as a luxury destination. This is a significant role played by our Kempinski hotels in the Dead Sea and Aqaba; showcasing this beautiful country to international guests, while embedding its true authenticity in our different offerings. As we are known for providing luxury getaways to our clients, whether locals or international visitors, our main focus is to maintain our high-end luxury services provided to our loyal guests and their expectations.”
TAKING ON THE CHALLENGE
There are many factors that can impact the flow of business, be they brand new trends that shift a traveller’s focus or the political climate. It therefore comes as no surprise that tourism players encounter various challenges along the way, but somehow, these are always met with positivity, because in this industry you live and learn.
Pin pointing a new challenge that has appeared with the rise of experiential travel, was Koth: “We witnessed a gradual decline of gastronomic consumption from our individual but mostly leisure guests in the hotel. The desire to explore the city to discover gastronomic delights within the surrounding areas of the hotel is greater than staying in a more predictable environment. The lesson to be learned is that less is more; less outlet variety but the outlets that you do have need to be a signature of the hotel, linked to the culture and must deliver an authentic experience.”
Meanwhile, another extremely noteworthy challenge that has been picked up on by all hospitality entities in the Hashemite Kingdom is regional instability.
Koth spoke to TTG about this: “The challenge that IHG has faced in Jordan [in recent years] is the negative effect of the perception of our country. The geopolitical situation is a fact and a gradual decline of business is a result of these turmoiled times, but Jordan has preserved its safety. Our first and foremost intention was to continue to deliver customer excellence, a safe environment and a stable place for our employees to work; develop and thrive; optimise work processes; review each cost centre; and work as efficiently as possible.”
Reiterating this was Mariette: “The regional geopolitical instability has affected our international business demand significantly since 2012. Therefore, our strategies have shifted towards the local and regional markets to overcome the loss, and I have to say, we have been doing excellently in maintaining our leading position in the market, driving revenue from the local and regional markets through innovative offers and packages on rooms, F&B and spa.”
Mariette explained that last year, Kempinksi Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea was extremely successful in attracting wedding business to the Dead Sea. The property is again focusing on capitalising on the fruitful MICE segment, in an effort to stimulate more weddings and social events from local and regional markets, with its breath-taking venues that overlook the beautiful Dead Sea and tempting offers that cannot be refused.
With a positive attitude, determination and the drive to succeed, it can be predicted that Jordan’s tourism industry will continue to flourish and tackle any challenge that it encounters.