Tourism is Jordan’s fifth-highest contributing sector, constituting 10 percent of the national economy and employing more than 50,000 people. Built on the foundations of the country’s rich historical past and supported by an entrenched tradition of hospitality, the local tourism sector sheds light on Jordan’s unique treasures, striving to introduce local and global visitors to distinct places and experiences that can only be found on Jordanian soil.
Tapping into the Sector’s Strengths
Despite its relatively small size, Jordan is bursting with ancient ruins, religious sites and incredibly diverse natural landscapes. Located at the intersection of Asia, Europe and Africa, Jordan boasts a history replete with a wide cast of empires and civilizations, each of which has impacted the country. Jordan’s most popular tourist attraction, Petra, known as the ‘Rose City’, drew 465,000 visitors in 2016. Other exceptional tourist destinations include the northern city of Jerash, home to one of the largest and most well-preserved sites of Roman architecture outside of Italy, as well as the hypersaline Dead Sea, located at the lowest point on Earth. Compounded with the country’s yearlong moderate weather and atmosphere of security and tolerance, Jordan’s potential for attracting visitors is unlimited.
In a region plagued with instability, Jordan stands apart as a secure and welcoming travel destination. In the 2017 ‘Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report’, Jordan’s safety and security was ranked 38th globally, ahead of nations including Malaysia, Germany and Greece. As such, Jordanians working in the fields of tourism and hospitality have seized the opportunity to overcome misconceptions surrounding the region and attract new markets to the country. In 2016, Jordan welcomed 6.4 million visitors, marking an increase of 33.5 percent in comparison to the previous year. This rise can be attributed in part to a diversified visitor portfolio, with 19.5 percent upsurge in arrivals from the Asia-Pacific region, as well as increased visitors from Europe, Africa and the Americas.
Tourism’s Transformative Impact
Jordan has developed many different types of tourism, many of which intersect with and generate a ripple effect across multiple sectors. When it comes to medical tourism, Jordan has been ranked by the World Bank as the leader in the Arab region and fifth worldwide. The country has begun to establish itself as a competitively-priced hub for people seeking world-class healthcare services, with around 300,000 medical tourists visiting Jordan each year. Another major segment of the tourism sector is conference tourism, which plays an invaluable role in boosting the country’s global profile. By the end of 2017, Jordan will have hosted several major international events, including the 2017 Arab Summit, the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa and World Science Forum 2017, among many other trade conferences, meetings and more.
Meanwhile, a shift towards ecotourism and experiential tourism has put Jordan’s natural and cultural diversity in the spotlight. This is particularly evident with the launch of the Jordan Trail, a hiking trail spanning the entire country from north to south and taking visitors through Jordan’s most breathtaking areas. In an effort to grow this segment of tourism, May 2017 marked the first-ever adventure travel conference supporting eco-tourism and active travel development in the Middle East and North Africa region, held with the support of the Jordan Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the JTB at the Dead Sea.
The country’s various sporting events also serve a draw for competitors, athletic delegations and sports fans’ alike, as witnessed during the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2016 – Jordan’s largest sporting event to date – as well as annual events including the Jordan Rally, the Dead Sea Ultra Marathon, and the Amman Marathon. The country also benefits from its extensive calendar of cultural events, such as Amman Design Week, the Jerash Festival for Culture and Arts and the European Film Festival.
Bringing Tourists into Jordan
In September 2016, Queen Alia International Airport, located on the outskirts of Amman, completed the second phase of its extensive expansion project, increasing its annual passenger capacity to 12 million travelers. Meanwhile, the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) has taken tangible steps to grow airline travel to and from the port city of Aqaba, establishing direct charter flights from Russia.
Aqaba also receives weekly flights from Brussels, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki, bringing an average of 400 tourists a week, each of whom averages a stay of seven nights in Jordan. The country has now set its sights on the booming Chinese market, outlining further support of low-cost air travel and the establishment of a JTB office in China as key interventions in the Jordan Economic Growth Plan for 2018-2022.