Head of Jordan tourist board dismisses fears of unrest
The head of the Jordan Tourism Board has dismissed fears that the country could be sucked into the social unrest sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.
Speaking in London on Wednesday, tourism board managing director Nayef Al Fayez described recent protests as “a sign of a healthy process in Jordan”.
He said: “Protests have happened before. The maximum number of protestors was 5,000 to 10,000. There has been a revolution in Egypt, a revolution in Tunisia. But in Jordan the situation is normal - similar to London after the demonstration two weeks ago.”
London saw a protest against government spending cuts of between 250,000 and 400,000 people on March 26.
Al Fayaz hailed the start of easyJet flights from Gatwick to Amman this month as sending “a very positive message” on travel to the country.
EasyJet flies to Amman three times a week, BMI flies daily and British Airways announced yesterday it would code-share on Royal Jordanian Airlines’ daily flights from Heathrow.
Al Fayaz said the country saw a fall in UK package tourists in March, “maybe because Jordan is often combined with Egypt or Syria”. But he added: “We saw an increase in independent travellers.”
The UK is Jordan’s biggest European market, sending 73,000 visitors to the country last year.
Jordan’s neighbour Syria has seen violent repression of recent protests, with security forces firing at demonstrators in Latakia at the weekend and 37 people reported killed on protests last Friday - most in the southern city of Der’aa.
Big names move to Jordan as tourism booms
Hilton, one of the world's largest hotel chains, has opened its first outpost in Jordan as the country's tourism industry continues to attract new names - and visitors.
The brand announced March 31 that its midscale brand DoubleTree had opened a 173-room property in Aqaba, Jordan's only coastal city which is a popular tourist destination thanks to its Red Sea location.
The hotel, Hilton's first property in Jordan, offers views of the Red Sea, an infinity pool, whirlpools, sauna and steamroll and four restaurants and bars, including a lounge bar with views over the Gulf of Aqaba.
Aqaba, named Arab Tourism Capital 2011 by the Arab Tourism Ministers Council, is fast becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in Jordan, itself going through a significant amount of change.
The city is already home to several luxury brands such as Kempinski and InterContinental, while Hilton's competitor Marriott is also planning to open a hotel in the resort in 2013.
The new developments, and Jordan's rapidly-rising star on the international stage, helped push arrivals to Aqaba up by a third between 2004 and 2009.
Although it boasts the country's second largest airport - Aqaba International - the town has been considerably boosted by the growing number of visitors to Jordan generally, many of whom pass through on their way to Wadi Rum, a popular rock formation deep in the desert.
Those numbers have been rising rapidly, up 20 percent last year, and although ongoing unrest in the Middle East is expected to dent this year's numbers, authorities remain upbeat on the country's future potential as a Middle East tourism destination.
This week, EasyJet inaugurated a new route between London and Jordan, which is expected to significantly boost the country's profile in the UK - and the airline says it could also offer services from France and Switzerland if demand is strong enough.