Jordan’s Minister of Tourism Nayef al Fayez says that the secret to his country’s improved summer tourism season is strict adherence to health regulations.
In an exclusive interview with the Media Line, Al Fayez explained that discipline and political will from Jordan’s very highest decision-makers has helped in overcoming some of the problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “We took a decision in government to follow the WHO guidelines and we gave the Ministry of Health and the relevant bodies they created full authority to make the best determination as to which route to follow,” he said, referring to the guidelines put forth by the World Health Organization.
Al Fayez said that the policy has produced dividends amid a marked rise in inter-Arab tourism over the summer, and he is hopeful that in the fall international tourism also will reflect this change.
Jordan’s Minister of Tourism Nayef al Fayez. (Courtesy/Jordanian Ministry of Tourism)
“We are not yet hitting the record number of (tourists that arrived in) 2019 but we have had a good summer in terms of tourists coming to Jordan from Arab countries. We hope that the fall/winter season for international tourism will also be a marked improvement,” he told The Media Line.
Hotels in Jordan have had a 70% occupancy rate this summer, according to the Jordan Hotels Association.
One of the reasons for the improved tourism numbers was the fact that Jordan’s Ministry of Tourism was given priority in receiving vaccines against the coronavirus.
“Just after the medical practitioners, the tourism workers were given priority in vaccination. We made sure all tourism-related individuals, which included many young people, received the vaccine,” according to the minister. In addition, Al Fayez said that instead of waiting for tourism workers to come to an agreed-upon location, the Ministry of Health went to them. “We went to the hotel owner’s association, tourism office unions, and guide unions and made it easy for them to get the needed vaccine,” he said.
One of the early success stories was the idea of a ‘golden triangle.’ “We noticed that Petra, Wadi Rum and Aqaba are all sparsely populated even though they are high attraction sites, so we created a golden triangle where we vaccinated almost all the people living in those locations and made sure no one entered unless they were vaccinated,” he explained
Al Fayez says that the combined effort of the ministries of health and tourism produced clear rewards. Last year the tourism industry brought in $1.5 billion and “we expect that this will be better in the current year,” he said. By comparison, in 2019, the revenue from tourism reached $5.6 billion.
Just after the medical practitioners, the tourism workers were given priority in vaccination. We made sure all tourism-related individuals, which included many young people, received the vaccine
Jordan has made it much easier to enter the kingdom if you are coming from a “safe” country with low coronavirus numbers. “You no longer need to be tested twice. If you prove that you already have taken a PCR test within the previous 72 hours you no longer need to be tested upon arrival so long as you are coming from a safe country,” he said.
In addition to Arab tourists, Jordan also was able to make a breakthrough in Africa with the establishment of a regular procedure for Christian tourists from Nigeria to visit Jordan, which boasts Jesus’ baptismal site as well as over 100 locations mentioned in the Bible. Jordan hopes that more and more Christian tourists will realize that, in addition to visiting Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Nazareth, there are many locations in Jordan that have direct relevance to the Christian faith.
According to study of the World Tourism Organization, in cooperation with the National Academy of Tourism and Aviation Sciences Training in Jordan, dozens of hotels and more than 400 tourist restaurants and 400 popular restaurants and cafes in Jordan have closed, leaving about 14,000 employees without jobs.
Tourism in Jordan makes up 13% of the gross domestic product.
*The Media Line