Soaring to new heights: Jordan's tourism industry prepares for record-breaking 2023

Low-cost European flights, creative local experiences programme, innovative initiatives propel Jordan’s travel sector forward

Jordan is gearing up to smash tourism records in 2023 thanks to new partnerships with low-cost airlines, a vigorous marketing strategy and diverse, full-fledged programmes that introduce new tourism experiences and expand the Kingdom’s appeal to a broader clientele, according to the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB).

Petra brief

The JTB has secured agreements with a fleet of low-cost carriers, including EasyJet, RyanAir, WizzAir, Transavia and Vueling. These airlines are set to launch new routes to Jordan's capital, Amman, and the seaside city of Aqaba, broadening accessibility from destinations across Europe, Director General of the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB), Abdul Razzaq Arabiyat, told The Jordan Times in a recent exclusive interview.

“We will announce more details within two weeks. The flights from the new European destinations are set to commence in October,” he said. Arabiyat explained that increasing flights is part of the JTB’s strategy to attract a diverse range of tourists, and is projected to play a significant role in exceeding Jordan’s unprecedented 2019 tourism figures.

Last year, low-cost carriers brought 355,000 passengers to Jordan, only 15 per cent of which were Jordanian. Since the beginning of the year to date, Jordanians represented 12 per cent of all passengers arriving in Jordan from these flights.

“2023 is a promising year,” he said.

This year, Jordan is reaping the fruits of last year’s aggressive marketing campaigns dispersed across all of Europe, from Spain through Hungary, Romania and central Europe.

“The Jordan Tourism Board gave more incentives to eliminate the seasonality of the tourism season in Jordan, and succeeded in working with European tour operators to promote Jordan as a standalone destination, and also increased the number of overnight visitors,” Arabiyat added.

JTB is championing sustainable tourism, eco-tourism and agri-tourism, leveraging Jordan’s varied natural landscape.

“Working in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism, the JTB is curating a collection of local experiences for tourists. These range from the historical sites of Um Qais in the north to the iconic locations of Petra, Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea in the south. But, the JTB is also focusing on local experiences across the country,” he added.

The JTB is also working with travel companies such as Expedia, KAYAK, Tripadviso and others to promote content that is focused on local experiences.

The JTB is making concerted efforts to showcase these authentic experiences to the world and increase tourists’ engagement with local communities, shedding light on projects managed by women and promoting responsible tourism. One such effort is the “meaningful map”, Arabiyat said.

“We are working with the Ministry of Tourism to identify 800 local experiences across Jordan. Currently there are between 50 and 60 well-established local experience programmes, and we have started the promotion,” he explained.

“We are also working on educational tourism, and are working with universities to promote Jordanian universities. We are actively taking take part in roadshows in the Gulf and elsewhere,” he added, explaining that the JTB is also promoting Jordan as a hub for non-Arabic speakers to study the language.

The JTB’s marketing strategy currently extends beyond Europe, with the focus now on Asia.

“We will take part in several roadshows in Asia soon. From now on, we will increase our focus on Asian markets, including Japan, Australia, China, South Korea, Taiwan and India. We will be working with several airlines such as Royal Jordanian [RJ] and others that reach destinations where RJ does not, including Qatar Airways, Emirates, Etihad and others,” he added.

When it comes to religious tourism, the JTB has “a comprehensive plan” in place, Arabiyat said.

One such experience is the “Umra Plus” initiative, targeting Malaysia and Indonesia.

“This package offers a unique religious journey, starting with performing Umra, followed by a visit to Jordan to the Prophet’s companions’ shrines in the Kingdom, concluding with prayer at Al Aqsa Mosque,” he said.

The official added that another major event that is expected to boost religious tourism is a conference by the heads of Christian pilgrimage entities from France, set to take place in Jordan for the first time in November.

Some challenges remain

To accommodate the projected influx of tourists, the JTB has highlighted the need for more lodging facilities, specifically in popular areas like Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba, and the Dead Sea. There is also a dire need for homestays in Irbid, Jerash and Ajloun to cater to adventure tourists.

“We also have a shortage in human resources available to work in the sector. We will work with tourism entities and universities to encourage students to join the hospitality sector. This means we need to increase trainings and capacity building programmes,” he added. Local demand for sector-specific talent is on the rise, with new hotels being build and amidst a brain drain of workers migrating to Gulf markets.

The JTB official stressed the need to maintain the board’s budget, taking into account the need for continued expansion.

“We need the budget to remain as is, with a ten per cent increase each year to be able to continue to achieve our targets...we need to sustain the budget, and ensure sustained planning,” Arabiyat said.