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Tourism sector strives for strong comeback

Tourism sector needs around 3 years to restore 2019 levels — stakeholders

By Claudia Lacave - Jan 19,2021 - Last updated at Jan 20,2021

Tourism sector representatives say 2020 was very bad for their businesses, expressing hopes for tourist travels recovery in 2020 (JT file photo)

AMMAN — Tourism sector stakeholders are hoping for the recovery of the tourist travels in autumn as 2020 has been almost “a lost year”, a situation the government is trying to avoid in the future with the announced Tourist Resilience fund. 

“Some people had some saving and they have spent it all, some people sold their car, their furniture, their houses, while others took loans from relatives or from the banks. So, the situation is very difficult,” said Raed Abdel Haq, president of the Jordan Tour Guides Association (JTGA). 

When the pandemic hit Jordan at the beginning of tourism season mid-march, the stakeholders were left without incomes. The borders closure until September meant the end of their business. 

“Everybody is hoping for the rebound especially with the start of vaccination drive and we hope that tourism will start again in the second half of this year,” said Emad Hijazeen, secretary general of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, while Awni Kawar, chairman of the Jordan Inbound Tour Operators Association (JITOA) anticipated it would begin around autumn.

However, the sector is in a hurry to finance the losses of 2020. “The domestic tourism helped at least but it’s not comparable with the international tourism,” Hijazeen said.  

Abdel Haq expected that at least 15 per cent of the tour guides will not come back to the business. “Around 40 offices closed definitely,” said Kawar. 

“Around four hotels closed for good officially but there is more than a hundred that closed the door because there were no visitors,” said Vatché Yergatian, general manager of the Jordan Hotels Association. 

The Social Security Corporation provided financial support to cover the salaries in the first three months and the government tried to help through the Charity fund and the Domestic Tourism Programme “Urdun Jannah”, Hijazeen added. 

“However, we didn’t get actual help until now. Even when the Central Bank released the soft loans of two per cent, we couldn’t get it because it’s too complicated,” Kawar said, while Hijazeen noted that the government had allocated JD150 million to cover the interest rates of these loans.

The government is now working on the tourism resilience fund of JD20 million announced in December. Still in discussion with the associations about the management and the long-term funding, the government hopes to find an agreement on the share of the tourism receipts to support the fund and create “an efficient tool” against the future crisis. One suggestion is to use 1 per cent of the tourism receipts as yearly financing, Kawar noted. 

He added that the tourism sector needs another three years to come back strong, to restore the 2019 levels.

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