Tourism revenue up, Arab visitors down
Jordan’s tourism revenue, which comprises 10 per cent of the kingdom’s GDP, has increased compared to 2007 figures despite a decline in Arab and Gulf visitors.
Total arrivals declined from 3.17 million in 2006 to three million in 2007, according to Ministry of Tourism figures, while Gulf and Arab visitor numbers, which normally account for more than 50 per cent, according to the Jordan Tourism board (JTB), declined by than one million.
“We believe the drop is attributed to various reasons, but mostly to the tough competition in the entire region and the emerging of new destinations in the Far East and the drop in the stock market in major GCC cities prevented visitors from travelling,” managing director of JTB Nayef Al Fayez, told TTN.
Al Fayez said that the quantitative drop was met by a qualitative rise in the number of nights and total spending by tourists from other nationalities.
The number of group tourists has risen by 25.4 per cent in 2007, reaching more than 322,000 people, while the number of nights has risen by 30.9 per cent to more than 1.4 million nights.
“In terms of financial returns, tourism has generated $2.312 billion in 2007, which represents a 12 per cent rise over 2006,” he said.
Visitors numbers on package tours to Jordan rose by 48.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2008. Official figures from the Ministry of Tourism revealed that 101,311 package tourists visited Jordan during January to March this year compared to 68,279 in the sdame period for 2007.
So how could the JTB pre-empt this drop in Arab tourist numbers?
“You can’t really prepare for a drop, unless you know there will definitely be a drop. But, we did launch a television campaign in the Gulf. Sometimes you can anticipate a trend by monitoring group bookings in individual countries,” said Al Fayez.
He believed that this was largely possible in the Western markets, but in the Arab world and the Gulf in particular, this anticipating was more difficult because travellers tended to make their own arrangements for their summer vacations. It was therefore almost impossible to read a coming rise or decline.
“We believe the Gulf is an important market for Jordanian tourism. Having said that, I must assert that JTB is constantly working on improving its marketing capabilities in the Gulf and Arab markets through various other means,” he said.
The JTB is currently pursuing an aggressive marketing effort based on the vision set by the National Tourism Strategy. Its basic mission is to promote Jordan as a safe, diverse and unique destination with a wealth of tourism experiences for a wide spectrum of individual and group choices.
The focus of its message is on the diversity of the Jordan product, the hospitality and friendliness of its people, the favourable weather and the wealth of experiences a tourist can enjoy in the country. Tours covering history, culture, religious pilgrimage, leisure, luxury, adventure and eco tourism are all available in Jordan.
The government has also launched a $70 million campaign to restore and beautify five of Jordan’s historical cities, including Madaba, Kerak, Salt, Jerash and Ajloun, while last year the ancient city of Petra was named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
“The tourism industry is quite a volatile business based on the nature of the elements that affect it,” Al Fayez said. “If you take our part of the world, you can easily see the impact of regional tensions and turmoil on our own tourism industry.”
Although Jordan is a safe and secure destination, any political or security situation in any neighbouring country can easily affect the flow of tourists to Jordan.
“This is a misconception that we are trying to overcome; and we are working hard to change the image problem associated with Jordan’s location in the heart of a turbulent Middle East,” he concluded.