Unwitting business for Jordan’s tourism industry

When war strikes one country, it benefits another. And even as a British tourist was killed in Amman, Jordan’s tourism industry was one of those unintended beneficiaries of the war in Lebanon, reports MAYSA ZUREIKAT
Shot in the arm for Jordan

SINCE the war on Lebanon on July 12, thousands of Lebanese came to Jordan and many Arab tourists diverted their routes form Beirut to Amman.

All this has led to an increase in hotel occupancy in 4 and star hotels reaching around 97 per cent, and Amman became the taking off point for many trips to Lebanon and a main station for travellers to Beirut.
This has directly affected the hotel profits which have been charging visitors their rack rates, making occupancy in some instances to reach 100 per cent.
National statistics show that tourism revenue during the first six months of this year reached JD420.7 million ($593.7), which is a 10 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.
During this period, 2,589,384 million tourist visited Jordan compared to 2,368, 404 million visitor during the same period of last year (an increase of 9.3 per cent).
On the other hand, many travel agents suffered form travel cancellations for people travelling to more than one country in the Middle East, including Jordan, which is usually seen as a safe country.
According to Jordan’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Munir Nassar, the recent invasion of Lebanon has certainly had an impact on tourism in Jordan. “In the short term, we received an unexpected influx of Lebanese nationals who were seeking short-term refuge from the hostilities, as well as a number of Gulf nationals who were enjoying their summer holidays in Lebanon,” he says.
An estimated 32,000 Lebanese entered Jordan during the first three weeks of the war, all of whom have now returned home. While it is difficult to estimate the number of Gulf nationals who came in from Lebanon (as the summer is usually a season when many Gulf nationals visit Jordan on their family holidays), we know from the occupancy figures at hotels in Amman that there was a sizeable number of them who decided to spend the rest of their summer holidays in Jordan.
In the long term, many incentive tours, as well as regional and international conferences and corporate meetings, were cancelled because of the Lebanon war. This was particularly true of events that were booked through April 2007. Furthermore, new bookings were below the average for this time of the year.
According to the tourism minister, Jordan is not sitting idle. A supplementary budget of JD4.5million (almost $6.5 million) has been allocated by both the public sector and the private sector, and the Jordan Tourism Board will launch an aggressive campaign, mainly addressing consumers in the target markets, as of early October. This campaign aims to spur demand for tour packages to Jordan.
According to the president of Jordan’s Hotel Association, Michael Nazzal, Jordan is known for its stability within the region and its ability to sustain tourism industry. Asked about the effects of the latest event that took place in downtown Amman and resulted in the death of one British tourist, Nazzal commented that crimes take place everyday in every part of the world. He insisted that an attempt by one person cannot be generalised to judge the safety of the whole country. “Despite this one-of-a-kind incident, Amman is still considered a very safe country if we compare it to other western cities where crimes take place everyday.”