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‘Eco-tourism projects to increase visitors, benefit local communities’

By Hana Namrouqa - Dec 14,2016 - Last updated at Dec 14,2016

AMMAN — The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) announced on Wednesday seven new eco-tourism projects at its nature reserves aimed at increasing profit and the number of tourists and beneficiaries at local communities.

The projects, some of which have been completed, are expected to generate 135 new job opportunities for local communities, increase the number of tourists by approximately 52,000 per year and generate JD266,388 in annual profit as of the third year of operation, according to figures announced during the RSCN’s Second National Conference of Nature Reserves (Eco-Tourism).

The projects, funded by a grant worth around JD3.5 million from Royal initiatives, entail the development of the visitor centre at the Mujib Biosphere Reserve, refurbishment of the Mujib Biosphere Reserve’s chalets, expansion of the hospitality house at the Dana Biosphere Reserve, opening a new visitor centre in Shomari Wildlife Reserve, opening a new picnicking area in Dibeen Forest Reserve, building a new eco-lodge in Borqu Protected Area, and developing eco-tourism adventures in the eastern desert as well as building a new visitor centre in Wadi Al Heidan area, according to Mohammad Zarour, the head of strategic development at the RSCN.

Indicating that the society’s eco-tourism projects aim to improve the livelihoods of people living around nature reserves and protecting nature, RSCN Chairman Khaled Irani said the Kingdom is a pioneer in eco-tourism across the Middle East.

Irani noted that the country’s 10 nature reserves are now economic hot spots and attractions for investments, and in addition to the society’s existing projects, local communities are starting their own income-generating ventures around nature reserves.

RSCN figures indicate that its eco-tourism projects generated JD1.5 million last year, when 175,000 people visited the nature reserves, 65 per cent of whom were foreigners.

Meanwhile, Minister of Environment Yaseen Khayyat stressed that the need for further conservation of the country’s nature, warning that the Kingdom’s forests are facing fierce attacks in the forms of illegal logging and wildfires.

Khayyat unveiled plans in cooperation with the RSCN to deploy horse-riding rangers to enhance control over forests and prevent violations.

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