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'Aqaba poised to become standalone destination for international visitors'

By Omar Obeidat - May 11,2016 - Last updated at May 11,2016

Two flights from Russia land in Aqaba every week carrying 500 tourists each, according to the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (Photo by Osama Aqarbeh)

AMMAN — Aqaba authorities are seeking to position the southern seaport city as a standalone tourist destination for foreign and domestic visitors instead of being part of regional, multi-country packages, an official said recently. 

Sharhabeel Madi, Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) commissioner for economic development and investment affairs, despite unrest in neighbouring countries that took a heavy toll on tourism in the region. 

Aqaba authorities see the current performance of the tourism sector as "good" with tens of thousands of domestic and international guests been flocking to Jordan's only port city this year. 

In a phone interview with The Jordan Times Tuesday, Madi said that occupancy rates at three-, four- and five-star hotels are "good" and encouraging, as ASEZA plans to launch marketing plans targeting new markets in Europe. 

"We will be targeting visitors from Western and Eastern Europe through direct flights to Aqaba," he said, indicating that two flights from Russia land in Aqaba every week carrying 500 tourists each. 

A good number of visitors from Germany have also been coming to the port city, some 330km south of Amman, according to Madi. 

He also mentioned tourist cruise ships that started to arrive to Aqaba some two months ago and are expected to continue until next month, noting that thousands of tourists arrived via cruise ships. 

The ASEZA official said that by June, the overall number of tourists via ships would exceed 30,000. 

Madi said that domestic tourism in Aqaba has also boomed this year due to activities ASEZA launched and discount offers for hotels and transport. 

Arab Israelis are also spending more time in Aqaba, he said, attributing the rise in their number to incentives given to them when they cross from Wadi Araba border crossing, as the government decided recently to exempt tourists who spend two days or more in Aqaba from the entry fees of JD60 per person. 

Nearly 85 per cent of those visitors now spend at least two nights in Aqaba, he said. 

 

"We have so far succeeded in making Aqaba a standalone destination for tourists and we will be working to boost its position among regional competitors," Madi noted.      

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Any news about the project of Star Trek theme park in Aqaba? Where did it end up?

A person arriving via cruise ship does not stay in a hotel. In fact, free meals are included in their cruise packages and do not need to patranoize restaurants in Aqaba.

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