Syrian Crisis Chilling Tourism Region-Wide

Article Summary
Jordanian tourism officials, in partnernship with various international tourism bodies, held a conference to discuss the drop in tourism revenues nationwide. Dania Sherri reports that the tourism sector is a vital area of the Jordanian economy, accounting for 13% of GDP.

The Jordanian tourism sector is trying to protect itself from developments in Syria and Lebanon. As part of its newly adopted tourism-promotion policy, it hosted an international tourism conference in the Dead Sea area entitled "Taking advantage of the available tourism opportunities in light of the constant changes."

The conference was organized by the Jordan Tourism Board, which invited more than 300 tourism companies and offices as well as 250 journalists from various countries across the world. The main headline was summarized by the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Nayef Fayez, who said that Jordan is a very safe country for tourists.

The two-day-conference was organized by the Board under the direction of King Abdullah II in coordination with the private tourism sector and the World Tourism Organization of the United Nations. It included workshops that discussed the problems facing tourism in Jordan while suggesting solutions and promoting various types of tourism. Discussions were also held on the differences between tourists.

Fayez said that the region is witnessing rapid and deep change "that may bring great opportunities if individuals know how to exploit them." He added that he is working on giving local and foreign investors more opportunities to benefit from tourism. He said that the partnership between the public and private sectors will double the number of tourists by 2015, and will increase the number of hotel rooms by more than 5,000. Moreover, people will be able to reach Jordan from different countries and airports.

What about tourism to and from Lebanon? Fayez says that the situation in Syria has heavily impacted Jordanian-Lebanese tourism, especially due to the change in the number of tourists able to drive into the area. He noted that Jordanian visits to Lebanon never needed planning but that this "has become difficult today due of the difficulty of the situation."

According to Fayez, the number of Jordanian tourists visiting Lebanon fell by 50% this year. “The highest percentage of Arab tourists who visit Jordan are from Saudi Arabia,” he said. Asked whether the Syrian crisis’ impact on Lebanon will lead more Gulf tourists to visit Jordan, he said, "What harms our neighbors harms us too.”

Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization Taleb Rifai spoke about the unprecedented changes being witnessed across the world, emphasizing that technological developments and the economic crises have contributed to this change. He added that despite the difficult economic conditions being faced across the world, the tourism sector employs more than 200 million people, and is capable of achieving further growth in the coming period. He argued that tourism has become one of the best ways to overcome the effects of the global economic crisis.

The conference tackled the issue of how to reach tourists using social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to promote touristic sites. He said that growth estimates in the aviation sector may contribute to the development of touristic competition, and made comments on progress made in "flight crews, aircraft and the encouraging prices offered by companies." He talked about Jordan's experience and the importance of meeting tourists' demands by advertising touristic destinations to seize the opportunities offered by changing market conditions.

The conference presented Jordan's various types of tourism. These include religious tourism (the Jordan River and the old churches), medical tourism (polyclinics and advanced hospitals), natural tourism (relaxation in protected areas and natural tourism centers) and adventure tourism. During the conference, the Lebanese syndicate of travel and tourism agencies offered Minister Fayez an honorary shield to honor his role in the promotion of Jordanian-Lebanese tourism.

It should be noted that the tourism sector accounts for 13% of Jordan's GDP and accounts for 42,000 thousand direct job opportunities and 120,000 indirect job opportunities, not to mention the principal role it plays in attracting foreign investments into the Kingdom.

Found in: world tourism organization, minister nayef fayez, king abdullah ii, international tourism conference

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