While Israel continues on its record-breaking tourism path, Jordan has been feeling the effects of the Arab Spring. According to Janine Jervis, marketing and communications manager for the Jordan Tourism Board, North America, tourism numbers dropped by 12.9 percent from the U.S. and 20.5 percent from Canada in 2011 over 2010. To date in 2012, those numbers flipped between the countries with a 17.1 percent drop from the U.S. as opposed to 14.9 percent from Canada.
Still, Jervis says, “Business has started off a little slow this year so far, at least from the statistics, but we’re hoping for a pick-up later on in the year, or maybe even this month or next month.” And she adds, in terms of the Arab Spring, “Definitely there has been a negative effect, tourism slowed down last year—in 2011, we were terribly affected. On a positive note, there were tour operators and tour companies that moved their trips, so instead of the joint packages—with either Egypt or even Syria—they made the packages Jordon only or extended their time in Jordan for the group. So that was positive. The Israel/Jordan combos did help. The only problem was many of those were Israel and just Petra.” Still, she adds, some did include Amman and the aforementioned holy sites.
To get those numbers up, Jervis says, Jordan is focusing on removing themselves from the Middle East stereotype so prevalent in the North America media. To do that, she says, “For this year, we’ve been promoting the 50th anniversary of the filming of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and there are quite a few things happening on the ground surrounding those events, as well as the 200th anniversary of the rediscovery of Petra. We’re trying to use those themed celebrations to try and entice people by promoting things to do within Jordan and take us away from the Middle East as a stereotype.”
At the same time, she adds, “We’re also trying very hard to educate the trade within Jordan—the ground operators especially. A lot of their itineraries haven’t changed over the years, so we’re trying to educate tour operators in the U.S. and Canada on things they can do in Jordan and what they should demand from their ground operators in Jordan and give them some different variations. There are a lot of different ecofriendly stuff that one can do, like cycling tours, there’s also wine tasting —something that hasn’t been promoted—culinary tours, a lot of new things coming up.”
In terms of joint tour programs to Israel and Jordan, Virgin Vacations has a 17-day Jordan & Israel escorted package priced from $2,589 land only or $3,679 with air from NYC-Amman, Tel Aviv-NYC. The package includes 15-night fi rst class accommodations with four nights in Amman at the Cham Palace, Amman; two nights at the Petra Panorama; four nights at the Mount Zion Hotel in Jerusalem; one night at The Rimonim Royal Hotel, Dead Sea; two nights at Kibbutz Lavi, Galilee and two nights at the Dan Panorama, Tel Aviv.