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‘Jordan very safe for tourists; Jordanians open and hospitable’

King talks to ‘Travel Weekly’ on tourist attractions, future plans for tourism industry

By JT - Mar 06,2018 - Last updated at Mar 06,2018

A hot air balloon ride in Wadi Rum. His Majesty King Abdullah has told ‘Travel Weekly’ that the tourism has seen a hike in the number of visitors lately (Photo courtesy of Jordan Tourism Board)

Amman — International tourism industry publication “Travel Weekly” published an article on Monday titled “The King of Jordan talks tourism”, which included excerpts from a recent meeting His Majesty King Abdullah held with the paper’s chief editor, Arnie Weissmann, in Amman.

King Abdullah spoke about tourism’s important role in the economy, saying, according to the article: “Tourism’s role in the economy is huge, and impacts many downstream industries”.

With the discussion chiefly focusing on tourist attractions and historical sites, as part of His Majesty’s efforts to promote Jordan’s tourism industry, the article quoted the King as saying that Jordan is “a very safe place to go and that the people are very open and hospitable”.

Commenting on the impact of regional crises on Jordan’s tourism sector, His Majesty said that when the number of Western tourists dropped, the Kingdom witnessed an increase in the number of Arab visitors, who view Jordan as a safe destination, and added: “We are seeing visitors coming back in large numbers. Wadi Rum had an improvement of 75 per cent last year”.

The King noted in the article that tourism is constantly changing, and he referred to medical tourism as a major source of revenue, noting that “the standard of our medical care is very good”.

Jordan is currently ranked as the fifth most popular destination for medical tourism, and some laws need to be changed to improve the Kingdom’s ranking, His Majesty explained.

Another issue facing the tourism sector is the need to increase the number of hotel rooms, the article quoted the King as saying. New projects in Aqaba will encourage tourists to stay longer, and now, with more hotels, more flights are coming to the port city, His Majesty noted.

The King said it is important for airlines to offer more competitive ticket prices, adding: “You’ve got to look at this in totality. You may have a loss here, but if you make it inclusive, more Jordanians can live off visitation”.

“More tourists coming in will benefit hotels, restaurants, taxi drivers, tourist sites, tourist guides, souvenir shops,” His Majesty was quoted as saying.

The King also highlighted the importance of innovative technology in the sector, especially in religious tourism.

Through the advanced technology of augmented reality, which will be available in Jordan in the near future, tourists wearing special headgear will be given a tour of historical sites that blends the physical reality in Jordan with three-dimensional holograms.

In the article, Weissmann quoted His Majesty as referring to Hollywood directors Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, and James Cameron, who have a shared passion for such technologies and are helping in the efforts to make Jordan a centre for film production in the Middle East.

“The Martian”, the 2015 award-winning film starring Matt Damon, was partially shot in the south  of Jordan, while more recently, parts of a live-action “Aladdin”, due to be released in 2019 and starring Will Smith, were also shot in the Kingdom.

Discussing the uniqueness of tourist and historical sites in Jordan, the King said older visitors may be more interested in sites like the ancient Nabataean city of Petra and the Greco-Roman ruins in Jerash, while the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ (Bethany beyond the Jordan) would be the destination of choice for visitors with religious inclinations.

His Majesty also suggested visiting the Dead Sea, “just for the experience; the Red Sea for scuba diving”, according to the article.

Weissmann added that the King spoke more enthusiastically about Wadi Rum.

“You’ve got to do Wadi Rum,” the article quoted His Majesty as saying. “That’s my favourite. It’s just a magical place, outstanding, especially for an overnight.”

His Majesty also referred to Wadi Mujib, describing it as “basically Petra with a river running through it. A bit of swimming, climbing, little cascades and waterfalls. It’s adventure tourism”.

“The nice thing about the place is that, because the water floods through every year, it changes the rocks around, and the route through the gorges is completely different,” the King added.

Weissmann also highlighted the King Abdullah II Fund for Development’s support for two tourism-related projects. The first is the Urdon Shop in Amman, which sells products made by local communities, and the second is the Jordan Heritage Revival Company, which reenacts historical events depicting the Nabateans in Petra, Roman soldiers in Jerash, and the Ayyubids and Crusaders in Shobak, in addition to “A Journey through 1916” in Wadi Rum.

The performers who portray soldiers are retired police and army servicemen, and they can have a complementary role in His Majesty’s vision to make Jordan a regional filmmaking capital by “providing an instant ‘mega-army’ of foot soldiers in historical movies,” the article said.

Weissmann met with His Majesty while in Jordan with 70 travel industry professionals on a recent tour organised by the non-profit Tourism Cares organisation and the Jordan Tourism Board, covering sites on the “Meaningful Travel Map of Jordan”, which was created by the two organisations.

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