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Jordan’s hotel industry crosses the desert

Despite being a haven of stability in the region, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and its tourism are increasingly suffering from the surrounding conflicts. The country is waiting for better times and hopes to resume its status as a leader on the tourism map of the Middle East.

Arab Spring had already triggered an unprecedented reflux for this appeased country, whose economy is heavily reliant on tourism: a key sector, it contributed to 14% of the country’s GDP in 2014. Tourism revenue should decrease by 15% this year, a sign that international visitors are deserting Jordan. It is hard for a country that shares a common border with Syria and Iraq to convince tourists of its stability. And yet the Hashemite Kingdom is an exception in the region as it maintains a relatively quiet political environment – while ensuring exceptional hospitality considering the current regional crises, especially after welcoming 650,000 Syrian refugees.

This drop in international visitors is clearly reflected in the occupancy rate of Jordan's hotels: it decreased by 6.1% between January and October 2015, in line with results from the previous year. Average daily rates in Jordan are also down (-3.7%), dragging the national RevPAR with it to produce a 14% drop compared to 2014. The fall is also significant in hotels in the capital Amman (-12.5%).

Fortunately excellent performance in July allowed Jordanian tourism to limit its losses, mostly thanks to a more favorable Ramadan calendar compared to last year for Middle Eastern clientele. With the occupancy rate up 11.6 points, the Kingdom made the most of this regional improvement as the RevPAR reached its best yearly results (+33.7%). As the country aims to specifically target clientele from the Persian Gulf, the example of this month of July confirms the national strategy. In addition to this, Jordan hopes to win new markets over, especially in Asia: China, South Korea and Japan. Other types of tourism have been developing as well, such as medical tourism among Middle Eastern or North African clientele. Jordan is already the first destination of the kind in the region, and welcomed 250,000 foreign patients in 2014.

The waters of the Dead Sea are ideal for thalassotherapy and hydrotherapy, in addition to the exceptional natural heritage that the lowest point on Earth represents. Tourist sites are many in the country, some of them needing no introduction; Wadi Rum, Jerash, or needless to say the Nabatean city of Petra. Evidence of the industry’s setbacks is that the number of visitors to Jordan’s most popular tourist attraction fell by one third between 2010 and 2014, dropping from 975,000 to fewer than 600,000.

Annual arrivals in Petra between 2003 and 2014

On December 10, French Ambassador to Jordan David Bertolotti announced the reopening to French tourists of the archaeological site of Umm Qais, overlooking the green valleys of Galilee. He encourages them to "come here and more generally come to Jordan, [...] a safe and pleasant destination. Our Jordanian friends need our support in times like this one. We must come and visit to give them this message of solidarity." Presently, borders with Syria and Iraq are the only areas strictly advised against for tourists in the country.

Tourism and hotel professionals in Jordan hope for a quick recovery, deeming above all necessary to convince international visitors of the country's safety. The priority given to new Asian markets does not prevent new communication campaigns towards European countries, especially in the United Kingdom and France. The Jordan Tourism Board aims to multiply partnerships with tour-operators and give more exposure to the destination - while reassuring potential visitors. After launching a real emergency plan for tourism, the Hashemite Kingdom expects to come out on the other side of the storm that is shaking the region.

Also read:

  • Jordan eases regulations on entry visas
  • Jordan focuses on the MICE segment to grow tourism

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