Investments needed for sustained success of Jordan’s tourism sector, say experts

AMMAN — Despite the tourism sector’s record breaking revenue and strong growth projections, economists and sector experts are urging Jordan’s public and private sectors to expand investments in the sector.

Jordan is a country rich with tourist sites, offering attractions such as Petra, Wadi Rum, the Baptism Site, the Dead Sea and many more that are unique on a global scale. In addition to wide product offerings, the availability of several tourism varieties gives the Kingdom a competitive advantage over neighbouring countries. Many visit the country to take advantage of Jordan’s plentiful medical tourism, pilgrimage and spiritual tourism, adventure tourism and cultural tourism opportunities. 

However, economists believe that the Kingdom should not stop here; there remains “a long way to go”. The path to sustained success, according to experts such as economist Wajdi Makhamreh, starts with a mentality shift towards managing the tourism sector with a “private business mentality”. 

 “The tourism sector is still underutilised; we need to expand our offerings and compete with neighbouring countries,” Makhamreh told The Jordan Times.

Jordan needs to be open to all opportunities, facilitate foreign investments and enhance infrastructure, he added.

Economist Khaled Omar Salameh told The Jordan Times that the boom offers “a golden opportunity” for Jordanians to invest in the tourism sector. 

“Now is the time to expand our investments in the tourism sector, whether on a private or public level.  Individuals are also encouraged to invest in the tourism sector,” Salameh said. 

Tourism investment offers opportunities for economic diversification and market-creation when effectively managed, Salameh said.

However, expanding private investments in the tourism sector requires governmental facilitation of procedures, as well as enhancing the Kingdom’s infrastructure to be able to host millions of tourists annually, he added.

Hamza Haj Hassan, deputy chairman of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) Board of Commissioners, announced on Monday that more than 226,000 tourists entered Aqaba during the first quarter of this year, an increase of 40 per cent in comparison with the first quarter of 2022, Al Mamlaka TV reported.

“The number of visitors to Aqaba through the cruise ship port increased by 200 per cent,” Haj Hasan added. 

Mohammad Al Qasem, the Jordan Hotel Association’s Spokesperson, told The Jordan Times that in light of the tourism boom, the demand for hotel rooms is on the rise across the country. “The demand is growing in several places, such as Madaba, Salt Governorate, Petra and Ajloun,” said Qasem. 

“Although there are almost 7,000 hotel rooms in Aqaba, demand exceeded 50 per cent in the first quarter of 2023,” Qasem added. 

The Hotel Association is working to increase the number of rooms available in Aqaba, as “the peak is yet to come”, Qasem said. 

Local travel agent Manar Sabbagh also noted that domestic tourism is growing significantly. 

“With all the promotional campaigns, Jordanians want to explore their country,” Sabbagh added.

Mohammad Khader, who recently opened a local travel agency, told The Jordan Times that his business “is doing great”. 

“Inbound and outbound tourism are on the rise; the numbers are increasing significantly. It is very clear that tourism bounced back to even higher levels than pre-COVID,” Khader said. 

Khader noted that the sector is very promising, yet tourists can be offered more. “It’s all about their customer experience, leaving Jordan happy and leaving positive reviews,” he noted.