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Jordon promotes in

 After some initial hesitation due to the political unrest, the Jordan Tourism Board went ahead with its first marketing event in Bangkok last week in a show of solidarity with the Thai tourism industry.

Headed by Jordan Tourism Board managing director, Nayef Al Fayez, the roadshow turned out to be first by a foreign tourist office in Thailand since the unrest ended.

“We came very close to cancelling,” Mr Al Fayez said. “But when the situation stabilized, we decided to go ahead with it. It is important for us in the travel industry to show solidarity with each other. We can sympathise with what you went through. When we have problems in the Middle East, we also start getting cancellations.”

About 70 Thai travel agents attended the JTB road show which was part of a swing through Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Jakarta to coincide with the 2 June resumption of Royal Jordanian Airlines flights from Amman to Kuala Lumpur, after a seven-year break. RJA flies daily to Bangkok, using an A330-400 aircraft, but is now extending three flights to KL and three to Hong Kong.

The roadshow, the JTB’s first in the ASEAN region, is part of the Jordan Tourism Board’s strategic plan to diversify the source of its visitor arrivals and reduce the overwhelmingly large exposure to sources of traffic from the Middle East and Europe.

Mr Al Fayez said that recent developments such as the European volcanic ash cloud and the slump in the value of the Euro had affected arrivals from there, and underscored the importance of stepping up marketing plans in ASEAN, India and China.

He identified huge potential for leisure, MICE and particularly Islamic and Christian religious pilgrims from ASEAN. The road show delegation consisted entirely of tour operators offering packages which largely positioned Jordan as a stand-alone destination but also offered combinations with Palestine, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

Jordan’s tourism development master plan requires it to maintain a focus on niche products and quality of experience. The country received 3.7 million visitors in 2009, +1.6% over 2008. That figure does not include day-trip, cross-border visitors from Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Mr Al Fayez said that the goal is to convert these day-trippers into overnighters.

Thai visitors to Jordan in January-April 2010 totalled 1,500, up 70% over the same period of 2009. Arrivals from Malaysia in the same period totalled 3,000 (+68%) and Indonesia 10,000 (+19%). Most of the Malaysian and Indonesian traffic is Muslim religious traffic.

Visitors from Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, can get visas on arrival upon payment of 15 Jordanian dinars (about Bt700). However, Indonesians are required to get the visas in advance. In all cases, payment of the fee is waived for groups of more than five persons.

JTB annually attends trade shows in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Shanghai, and is considering participating in ITB Asia, as well as joining the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).

Mr Al Fayez said tourism is Jordan’s second largest source of foreign exchange after remittances by Jordanians abroad. It generated 13% of GDP in 2009 and the target is to raise that to 17% in the next five to six years. Tourism development only began in earnest about 10 years ago, and numbers have remained low due to restrictions in infrastructure.

The entire country has a total hotel capacity of 23,000 rooms, with 5,000 rooms planned over the next four to five years, mostly in the southern resort city of Aqaba, followed by the Dead Sea and Amman. A new airport terminal at Amman is due to open by 2012, raising its overall capacity to 9 million passengers.

The average length of stay is only 1.9 nights although group tourists stay for 4.7 nights. Total tourism receipts in 2009 were JD2.06 billion, a small decline of 1.1% over 2008. However, receipts in 2008 were 27.9% up over 2007. Like elsewhere in the world, arrivals have surged in the first quarter of 2010 with a 33% increase in overnight accommodation and a 30% increase in receipts.

Major improvements are also planned in the country’s star attraction, the ancient city of Petra, a World Heritage Site. The charges of visiting Petra were raised from JD21 to JD33 and are now due to rise further in November. Mr Al Fayez said that although fees have so far all gone to the government in the form of tax revenue, the income from the upcoming increase will be used directly to improve the site, especially in terms of maintenance, eco-friendliness, guide services and facilitation.

Last year, the JTB opened an office in New Delhi, its first in Asia, and did its first road show in India last July. Royal Jordanian Airlines also flies to New Delhi and Mumbai.



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