Tourism authorities insist country is safe for visitors
Jordan’s tourist trade has become another casualty of the fighting in Gaza.
The war between Israel and Hamas has now entered its third month, and is apparently causing many jittery travellers to avoid Jordan, despite that country remaining quiet.
Issam Sweis, managing director at Amman-based tour company Karma House, says business is “much less than it should be for this time of year,” adding the recent drop on confirmed bookings may be as much as 80%.
All the company’s trips that featured both Jordan and Israel have been cancelled, while the number of stand-alone Jordan tours or ones combining Egypt and Jordan are now drawing less interest.
But Sweis insists there’s no reason for tourists to avoid Jordan, which hasn’t seen any violence and doesn’t border Gaza.
“Although Jordan is tangled with a conflict far from its borders, and is sometimes overlooked by wary travellers, Jordan stays the safe haven in the region, with a welcome feeling all tourists get while touring the country,” Sweis says.
The federal government says those visiting Jordan now “should exercise a high degree of caution,” the same warning it applies to such countries as Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Jamaica and Costa Rica. It does say that those visiting Jordan shouldn’t be closer than 5 kms to the Syrian or Iraqi borders.
Sweis blames Jordan’s tourism woes in part on media use of the term Middle East as “it engulfs Jordan with a war zone that we are not part of. We do have tourists on the ground, and they feel very safe touring Jordan. Many testimonials have proved that, and we need to reflect the proper message about Jordan being an open destination for the tourists of the world.”
He predicts that Jordanian tourism will rebound in a couple of months after the fighting ends.
This year’s tourism slump comes after what Sweis says had been an “exceptional year for tourism,” with the numbers achieved until October being a record in terms of numbers of travellers and gross income.
Goway Travel had a group of employees touring Jordan a few weeks ago, with all saying they felt completely comfortable in the destination.
“From a Goway standpoint, Jordan remains one of our most important destinations in the Middle East, and we look forward to seeing business rebound,” says Goway’s Moira Smith. “One of the reasons we’ve just sent six Goway staff members on a fam to Jordan is that they could experience first hand that Jordan continues to remain peaceful as It has for decades, earning its nickname as the ‘Switzerland of the Middle East.’ While our hearts and prayers are with those across the borders who have been impacted by this violence, we believe it is important to continue to showcase Jordan as the peaceful sanctuary it has and continues to be for visitors.”
Among Goway employees on the trip was Nadya Phelan, who said she felt “100%” safe while spending close to a week touring the country and she believes travel agents should feel totally confident that the country is safe as well.
“I don’t see there’s a reason to be nervous about sending clients here,” she said while in Jordan.
Meanwhile, Malia Asfour of the Jordan Tourism Board North America said her country remains particularly interesting for tourists.
“Jordan is one of the best countries to visit where you can connect with local communities throughout the country,” she stated. “It is a great place to cook and share meals, learn to weave carpets or make crafts, make friends and share stories with Jordanians throughout the country. It is a great destination where a traveler can showcase how tourism dollars are a force for good by spending with local communities to purchase their services and goods. This, in turn, enables communities to host more travellers and purchase needs for their communities. Jordan is a year-round destination that caters to travellers seeking unique experiences and adventures. Bedouin hospitality is felt in every inch of the country welcoming travellers from all walks of life. Visiting Jordan will open up your senses and enrich your spirit and help you understand the tranquility of the desert.”