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AMMAN — An international competition organised by 10 leading sustainable tourism organisations and networks has named Ajloun Forest Reserve as one of the world’s top 100 sustainable destinations for 2018, in recognition of its responsible and sustainable tourism initiatives.
The Sustainable Destinations Top 100 competition aims at helping destinations improve themselves, according to its website, which indicated that destinations that register for the “Top 100” will learn how to develop their tourism through local community involvement.
Yehya Khaled, director of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), which establishes and manages Jordan’s nature reserves, said that RSCN’s constant reaping of international awards is "remarkable proof" of its ongoing development and of it taking the lead in nature conservation both regionally and globally.
“It is indeed vital for Jordan to be represented in international competitions and awards because it is home to pioneers in the field of nature conservation and sustainable tourism,” Khaled said.
Established in 1987, Ajloun Forest Reserve covers an area of 13 square kilometres in the Ajloun highlands, and supports a wide range of plant and animal biodiversity, including the wild boar, the stone marten, the golden jackal, the red fox, the striped hyena, the Persian squirrel and wolves, according to the RSCN.
The reserve, announced in 2001 by BirdLife International and the RSCN as an Important Bird Area, is home to a variety of wild flowers, including the black iris, several orchids and wild tulips, in addition to being home to several sustainable development projects and eco-tourism ventures.
Marloes van de Goor, vice president of Green Destinations, a non-for-profit organisation for sustainable tourism based in the Netherlands, said that when determining a sustainability score, different criteria and indicators are taken into account, including factors relating to humans and animals, the local economy, energy consumption and management.
“Ajloun Forest Reserve scored high on different aspects, including its management, law enforcement, environmental protection and stimulation of the local economy,” van de Goor told The Jordan Times in an e-mail interview.
However, being part of the 2018 Sustainable Destinations Top 100 is "not the end goal" but "a first step", Van de Goor said, explaining that it is an international recognition of Ajloun Forest Reserve's commitment to preserving Jordan for future generations.
“I hope this achievement will be celebrated locally and inspire the Jordanian people and other beautiful Jordanian destinations to follow Ajloun's lead. We all have a role to play: You decide if you allow exploitation of humans and animals or that you respect all alive. You decide if you litter and pollute, or that you clean up and recycle..,” she underscored.
Ajloun Forest Reserve's achievement has already been celebrated in Nijmegen, 2018 European Green Capital, last September and the reserve’s success will again, most likely with an ever higher score and more Jordanian destinations on the list, be celebrated in March 2019 at the ITB Berlin, Van de Goor said.
Ajloun Forest Reserve is a very beautiful destination, where she has “very much enjoyed hiking in the reserve and meeting the local people of the nearby villages”, she said, adding that the fact that Ajloun Forest Reserve unites education and conservation, involves the local community, empowers woman and shares the most beautiful local products with people, is "very impressive".
“On top of that, their fantastic team has many more dreams for the future so I am very much looking forward to continuing our collaboration,” Van de Goor highlighted.