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US to continue supporting Jordan’s tourism sector — Wells

By Dana Al Emam - Aug 31,2015 - Last updated at Aug 31,2015

A tourist takes photos in Amman recently. Inbound tourism generated JD3.1 billion for Jordan in 2014 (Photo by Amjad Ghsoun)

AMMAN — The government’s recent measures to support the tourism sector will help build an environment that can “stimulate and foster” Jordan’s sustainable products and services, said US Ambassador to Jordan Alice G. Wells.

The decisions to stimulate tourism include reducing electricity tariffs for the hospitality sector, waiving visa fees for tourists who utilise Jordanian tour operators, and waiving departure tax and entry visas for all low cost and charter flights flying out of Aqaba, she explained.

Speaking at a meeting organised by the Jordan Indoor Tour Operators Association (JITOA) on Monday, the diplomat said inbound tourism generated JD3.1 billion in 2014 for Jordan, adding that tourism contributes to the gross domestic product by 14 per cent and employs around 10 per cent of women in the workforce.

Due to that significance, the US and Jordan have partnered over the past decades to sustain the strength and prosperity of the “vital sector”, as USAID has to date provided nearly $90 million to support the development of Jordan’s tourism initiatives, she said.

Since 2006, Wells added, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and USAID’s revitalisation of the vocational training system has encouraged over 10,000 young Jordanians, both males and females, to enrol in hospitality and tourism training programmes.

“The United States will continue collaborative efforts like these to support Jordan’s local communities in showcasing their country to the world through truly distinguished visitor experiences,” she noted, adding that Americans usually visit Jordan for religious-based and adventure tourism.

Last year, 120 members and staff members of the US Congress visited Jordan, registering the highest number of visits per year, a matter that reflects US commitment to supporting Jordan’s tourism and is a testament to officials’ “faith in Jordan” as a safe country, the ambassador noted.

In a session titled “Jordan between perception and reality, and its effect on the tourism sector”, she emphasised Jordan as a stand-alone tourism destination. 

“From Um Qais to Aqaba there is so much for tourists to see,” she said.

Monday’s event is the first of a series of
JITOA power breakfasts that will bring together sector stakeholders, international high-level officials and tourism experts to discuss topics in the sector, said
JITOA Chairperson Ghada Najjar.

She highlighted the US market as one of the “oldest and most traditional” tourism markets for Jordan, as the number of US overnight visitors to the Kingdom increased between 2013 and 2014 from around 160,000 to around 170,000.

However, in the first quarter of this year the number of US visitors has dropped by 14 per cent, a decrease that Najjar attributed to regional turmoil, calling for enhancing Jordanian and American efforts in promoting the Kingdom as a safe destination.

 

For his part, Amman Mayor Aqel Biltaji called for capitalising on “wellness tourism”, which promotes tourism for health, spirituality and adventure purposes, stressing the need for public-private partnerships to boost the sector.

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