Destination Jordan

Jordan

With upscale hotel openings just around the corner and new tourism niches arousing curiosity among global adventurers, exciting things are in store for Jordan’s flowering tourism industry. Tatiana Tsierkezou investigates.

To say that Jordan’s tourism industry is doing ‘well’ is a definite understatement. This fundamental sector, which constitutes approximately 12 per cent of the country’s GDP, is blossoming beautifully, and according to the general manager of the Jordan Hotels Association (JHA), Vatché Yergatian, tourism is expected to constitute an impressive 15 per cent of the Kingdom’s GDP in the coming years. This goes to show that travel and tourism stakeholders expect a spike in interest from global travellers wishing to immerse themselves in the destination’s cultural mastery.

Jordan truly stands out among its neighbours and is often referred to as the ‘Gem of the Middle East’. Yergatian shared his opinions on the country’s intrigue: “Travellers who spend time in the country are surprised at its diversity and staggering beauty, and leave feeling touched by the generosity and kindness of its people. From stunning natural landscapes to world-renowned historical and religious sites, Jordan is truly a hidden gem of the Middle East.”

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Also shedding light on the destination’s charm and appeal was multi-property general manager, The St. Regis Amman and Al Manara, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Saraya Aqaba, Erden Kendigelen: “Jordan is a unique location, representing refined culture and spectacular national treasures, and is best-known for its tourist attractions. Genuine hospitality and generosity are associated with the Jordanian people, as these characteristics are ingrained in the culture. A Jordan experience will stay with a traveller forever!”

TOURISM CLARITY

With regards to tourism performance, Jordan’s tourist figures increased by 7.8 per cent in 2018 compared to 2017, rising from 4.6 million visitors to 4.9 million visitors.

According to managing director and founder, Amani Tours, Basem Mubarak, March 2018 broke records, with the highest influx of tourists visiting Petra to be recorded in eight years.

“Jerash alone recorded a 50 per cent increase in 2018, compared to the year before that,” he explained to TTG. “Just this past April, the number of tourist arrivals in Jordan increased to 751,000 from 664,900. Aqaba alone, as the country’s only port city, is expecting over 52 cruise ships with more than 96,000 tourists visiting and exploring the golden triangle: Aqaba, Wadi Rum and Petra,” Mubarak added.

But it isn’t just the cruise ships that are steadily boosting the frequency of tourists visiting the country. More and more airlines are showing a keen interest in building bridges to Jordan, as JHA’s Yergatian exclusively told TTG: “Ryanair has now introduced four new European destinations that fly to Jordan and we hope to see a larger increase throughout the years to come, in addition to Transavia, a low-cost carrier that will start operations this October from Amsterdam.”

But what are visitors to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan going for nowadays? Adventure tourism is somewhat of a buzzword at the moment, according to Yergatian, who highlighted that The Jordan Trail has spiked interest among travellers.

“In recent years, an increased number of visitors have been coming to Jordan to take part in activities related to biblical tourism, medical and wellness, adventurism, MICE and traditional culture,” he said, adding that responsible and meaningful travel, which allows travellers to interact with the locals and experience the country in an authentic way like a local, has been growing in popularity.

Meanwhile, Mubarak of Amani Tours pin-pointed film tourism as key, with films such as Star Wars and Aladdin having shone a positive light on the country and its incredible offerings.

He explained: “Film tourism has helped to put Jordan back on the map. Now, with the hype of Aladdin and the exposure brought to Jordan by Will Smith’s recent visit and social media posts, Jordan will continue to build on its already present momentum.”

Film tourism has not only sparked tourists’ interests but has also reportedly created an opening in the job market for local Jordanians, while also stimulating a significant cash flow in the country over the years. According to the Royal Film Commission (the entity responsible for authorising and facilitating filming in Jordan), around $335.6 million has been invested in the country through film tourism over the last decade. The job opportunities provided in that time by the audiovisual industry has topped over 95,000. Adding to this, US-based production companies, as well as other international productions, have been recruiting local Jordanian youth to assist them on the sets.

Concluding, Mubarak said: “The exposure Jordan has been gaining through film tourism, social media influencers and the discovery of new archaeological sites has managed to attract tourists from all around the world and bring light to the security and stability of the country as well. Jordan’s tourism industry has been booming over the last couple of years and is continuing to achieve its goal of sustainable tourism growth by enhancing the experience of tourists and upgrading the infrastructure of tourist sites.”

APPROACHING OPENINGS

While stakeholders are homing in on new and exciting tourism niches, investors and hospitality companies are keenly eyeing the potential the Kingdom possesses.

Yergatian explained that a number of high-end properties are under construction and due to open in the near future, including a Ritz-Carlton-branded hotel in Amman and a Hyatt Regency in up-and-coming Aqaba.

But one highly anticipated hotel is gearing up for its grand opening this month, on June 8. Oozing sophistication and class from top to bottom, The St. Regis Amman is in gear to woo those yearning for ultimate luxury in the buzzing Jordanian capital city.

So what can guests booking a stay at this lavish new property look forward to? Answering this was Kendigelen, who spoke to TTG exclusively prior to the opening.

“It has been thrilling to watch The St. Regis Amman come alive to reflect our exquisite service and rich culture. It is a place where global travellers and local luminaries can experience a home-away-from-home, the vanguard spirit, tailored experiences and refined culinary tastings. It fills me with great pride to be part of the launch for our distinctive ‘House of Astor’, which is comprised of 17 floors offering 220 guest rooms, including state-of-the-art suites, 40 bespoke serviced apartments, the legendary Iridium Spa, spectacular events and meetings space for 1,500 attendees, a trendy pool and four different culinary destinations and bars.”

Kendigelen went on to explain that the property’s ultimate goal is to create tailor-made memories that guests can cherish forever.

“The legacy of our Service, as well as our Signature Rituals, will set the tone and start a new trend in our beloved city of Amman. Rituals are an integral part of the St. Regis brand; every St. Regis in the world celebrates three daily rituals, each a modern articulation of timeless tradition and an opportunity to invite guests to experience our legacy,” he concluded.

With new airlines adding Jordan’s charming cities to their destination portfolios, new tourism niches making themselves known and ultra-luxurious properties on the horizon, the country is on the right track. And with tourism movers and shakers being as united as ever before, there is nothing stopping this fascinating Kingdom from becoming a firm favourite in the Middle East travel game.