Tempting the Neighbours


To maintain their edge, all successful brands require a revamp or injection of fresh promotion activities – a principle that Jordan’s Tourism Board (JTB) is vigorously applying these days with respect to the GCC market.

With an assertive promotion campaign kicked off at the beginning of May, the JTB hopes to take itself one step closer to realising Jordan’s medium to long-term growth ambitions.
Targeting Bahraini, Qatari, Kuwaiti, Saudi, Emirati and Omani tourists, the initiative focuses on Jordan’s full range of attractions including the kingdom’s historical and cultural sights, along with its entertainment and leisure facilities. Apart from televised and print advertising, Jordan’s tourist authorities have also launched a new Arabic language web site to flaunt what is on offer at home. The JTB is particularly keen for tourists from the region to visit Jordan’s historical and cultural sites, with Arab visitors paying the reduced entry fees enjoyed by locals between June and the end of September this year.
While also looking to pull in a greater number of visitors from further afield, Jordan’s drive to attract more tourists from the GCC testifies to the importance of the Gulf market. Insiders regard Gulf nationals as the backbone of the industry, attracted as they are by family friendly festivals, recreation, and cultural attractions.
In total, 2006 saw 6.57 million Arab tourists (including Jordanians living abroad) visit the kingdom, compared to 5.81 million in 2005, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. Combined, the member states of the GCC accounted for 1.48 million tourists in 2006, compared to 1.25 million the year before. Not a negligible contribution, considering that Jordan saw 6.57 million arrivals in 2006, following 5.81 million in 2005. The robust dynamic has also been reflected in total tourist inflows during the first three months of 2007.
Visitor arrivals continued to grow during the first quarter of this year, rising by 20 per cent compared to the same period last year, official figures revealed. Preliminary figures released by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities show that some 1.388 million tourists visited the country between January and March, compared to 1.1 million during the corresponding period of 2006.
The number of visitors on package tours also increased as well as the number of nights spent.
According to the Central Bank of Jordan, arrivals between January and March increased revenues by 30 per cent to JD268.9 million ($379.5 million), compared to JD188.23 during the same period of last year.
Jordan’s efforts to pull in a greater number of GCC tourists, does not derive from a supposed loss in confidence from eastern or western markets. Jordan may have registered a 21.1 per cent drop in package-deal arrivals in the first eight months of 2006, translating into 192,055 visitors. However, the fatal November 2005 terrorist attack targeting three hotels in Amman along with the shooting of one British national in September 2006 did not prevent growth. Instability in the Middle East – particularly conflict in Lebanon last year and ongoing conflict in Iraq – has not led to a drought in tourist receipts, thanks to the increased resilience of tourism in the face of global terrorism. Notable in this regard was the 20.1 per cent increase in British holidaymakers and 19.4 per cent increase in Germans visiting Jordan between 2005 and 2006.
Industrial insiders are spending more of their energy looking forward, heartened by the general resilience of the market. Investing in an assertive drive to pull in GCC nationals should help pull in the $1.84 billion worth of tourist receipts per annum while also creating an extra 51,000 jobs – as intended by the Jordan National Tourism Strategy 2004-2010. The main slogan underlining Jordan’s campaign to attract Gulf tourists – marhaban bikum (welcome) – is more than appropriate.

(Jason J Nash is head of research at the Oxford Business Group)

by Jason J Nash