Eco-tourism to be strong focus for Jordan

Bouran … ‘there’s more to Jordan than Petra’

JORDAN plans to focus on building up its eco-tourism segment, the minister of environment, tourism and antiquities, Alia Bouran, told TTN.

'There’s more to Jordan than Petra,' she added. 'We’ve seen some success with the hills of Dana, with Wadi Rum, and we’d like to bring our biodiversity to the world. As yet, the world only knows 30 per cent of what Jordan has to offer, there’s a lot more to be discovered.'
In concert with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the country is now creating a nature reserve in the Dibeen forest area, one of the largest natural forests remaining to conserve the habibat for endangered species as well as generate jobs in tourism and wood-sector enterprise. Dibeen, north of the capital Amman, is the southern-most distribution of pine forest in the world, said Bouran, and is home to at least 17 endangered species, including grey wolves, imperial eagles and other migratory birds, Persian squirrels and wild orchids.
The reserve is near the ancient Roman city of Jerash, a popular tourist destination, which can help draw visitors to enjoy its natural beauty. According to the UNDP website, the Global Environment Facility is providing $1 million for the four-year project and UNDP $100,000 with in-kind contributions from Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature and other local organisations.
Tourism is a strong contributing sector to Jordan’s GDP, and is witnessing significant growth in inbound traffic with hotels receiving a higher number of reservations since the start of this year. More than 331,000 people visited the Kingdom for the first quarter of 2004 compared to 266,000 in the same period last year, said Bouran. The Dead Sea and Petra are the most popular destinations.
Figures released by the Jordan Tourism Board show a substantial 24.3-percent increase in inbound traffic for the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period in 2003.
The country saw three million arriveal in 2003, 1.6 million of whom were tourists. This number is expected to rise to more than 2.1 million in 2004.
'The number of Arab travellers, our largest market, has risen by 5.1 percent – again for the same period – while the feeder market that has shown the most growth is the US, where traffic has more than doubled showing a staggering 108-percent increase,' said Bouran.
The number of holidaymakers on package tours has also increased by 120 per cent for January and February this year, while the average length of stay now equates to 4.19 days as opposed to 3.34 last year.