Regional travel 'growing'

Gunter Grigoleit, general manager of InterContinental Jordan and regional vice president operations of Six Continents Hotels in Jordan, speaks to TTN about the state of the tourism market in the kingdom.

Q. With the Israel-Palestinian crisis on one side and the threat of war on Iraq on the other, what has been the impact of these problems on Jordan's travel and tourism industry?

A. On the one hand, the situation does not encourage business volumes from the major tourist source markets of Europe and the US, and the Far East. However, we have seen a significant growth in intra-regional travel. In particular, during the summer months, Amman has boomed with tourists from the Gulf and Arab Israeli markets. Excellent occupancy levels have been achieved in Amman, but unfortunately Middle Eastern tourists are not attracted by Petra, so business there is still considerably down in comparison to normal levels.

Q. What in your opinion can the government and the industry do to offset any negative impact?

A. We have to be positive and keep reminding people that Jordan is a fascinating travel destination with so much to offer. In addition to the Inter-Continental Jordan, Six Continents Hotels also manages the Crowne Plaza Resort Petra, the Amra Hotel in Amman, which is soon to be rebranded as the Amra Crowne Plaza Hotel Amman, as well as the Holiday Inn Amman, while we also have another Inter-Continental hotel under development in Aqaba.

The ministry of tourism and the Jordan Tourism Board are doing a superb job to promote the country, and we're fully committed to supporting their efforts, not only by promoting our properties, but what Jordan has to offer in terms of facilities and attractions for both leisure and business travellers.

Q. This summer has seen regional travellers, including from the Gulf, opting for holidays closer to home. Have you seen an increase in bookings from the Gulf?

A. By our reckoning, as far as the five-star hotels are concerned, traffic from the Gulf markets grew from some sources and declined from others. From our experience, Gulf travellers often prefer to rent apartments or stay in suite hotels for extended stays.

The real increase to Jordan during the summer for the five-star hotels was from the Arab Israeli market.

Q. What is your target market? What percentage of your guests come from the Gulf and elsewhere in the Middle East? What has been your occupancy level over the past year?

A. During the summer, 70 per cent of our guests were from the Middle East. Sixteen per cent of the total number of visitors were from the GCC, 40 per cent Arab Israeli, 15 per cent from the near east and North Africa. Our occupancy for the year has been 45 per cent, while for August occupancy was at 76 per cent.

Q. How do you see the future of the industry in Jordan and the Middle East?

A. We remain positive, believing that current problems in the Middle East will be overcome, and that when that happens, the great efforts that have been made to promote the region's many attractions will pay off.

We have a great deal to offer in this part of the world, including many attractive destinations, year-round sunshine, and a growing number of top-class hotels offering superb facilities, service and value for money

Q. Any expansion/renovations under way or in the pipeline?

A. Plans are being finalised to create a new Mexican restaurant at the Inter-Continental Jordan. The new Cinco De Mayo Mexican Restaurant, designed by the famous New York-based designer, Tony Chi, will open next March.

A beautiful new carpet is adding to the glamour of the hotel's ballroom, reinforcing its attraction as a venue for gala events.

We're also studying a number of other ideas to further enhance facilities for our guests, including expanding the Bourj Al Hamam Lebanese restaurant and refurbishing the Bukhara Indian restaurant.

Meanwhile, our "Discover Jordan" package offers visitors superb rates at each of our hotels in the country. In addition, guests can choose one of three options Ñ to stay for three nights and get the fourth night free, or take a second room at 50 per cent discount, or include breakfast in the price.

The "Discover Jordan" package can be booked through the Six Continents Hotels Central Reservations Office in Dubai, which takes instant bookings on toll-free phone lines in the UAE (800 4642), Saudi Arabia (800 8 971 465), Qatar (0800 971 234), Bahrain (800 880), and Kuwait (473 2100 ext. 6233).

Additionally, bookings can be made on the Global Distribution System (GDS).