Economy

Jordan tourism sector charts growth in 2017

By Mohammed Ghazal in Amman

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Tourists pose for a photo inside the ancient city of Petra. Jordan's tourism sector has charted significant growth in the first half of 2017. [Photo from the Jordan Tourism Board Facebook page]

Jordan's stability in the face of regional turmoil, coupled with an intensive media campaign to promote tourism, have helped to revive the kingdom's hospitality industry, officials told Al-Mashareq.

The kingdom has been bustling with events and with new and established festivals that are helping to stimulate the tourism sector, said Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Lina Annab.

These include the 2017 Amman Summer Festival, the annual Jerash Festival, and the new Amman Opera Festival, which concluded on July 22nd.

The first-of-its-kind festival, which was held in the Roman amphitheatre in central Amman, featured Jordanian soprano Zeina Barhoum and a number of international musicians, Annab said.

The Jerash Festival, now in its 32nd year, features artists from many countries in the region and beyond, said executive director Mohammed Abu Summaqa.

"Preparations were made for the festival to ensure high attendance by offering this year a varied and rich programme and featuring many Arab artists, authors and poets," he told Al-Mashareq.

The festival is one of the largest in the region and enjoys outstanding attendance, he said, adding that holding it on an annual basis promotes tourism and demonstrates Jordan's stability.

The festival opened in Jerash on July 20th and will continue at that location through July 30th, and in Amman from July 31st through August 6th.

Supporting the economy

Summer festivals contribute greatly to boosting all elements of the tourism sector, including restaurants and hotels, said economist Hossam Ayesh, noting that the sector contributes up to 14% of Jordan's gross domestic product (GDP).

"The efforts of those who work in the tourism sector have succeeded in increasing the number of tourists to the kingdom," he told Al-Mashareq, describing Jordan as "an oasis of security in the region".

He stressed the need for continuing to promote tourism in Jordan abroad and to organise festivals and various cultural events that will attract tourists.

According to the Central Bank of Jordan, the kingdom generated 1.5 billion Jordanian dinars ($2.1 billion) in tourism revenue in the first half of this year, an increase of 14.5% over the same period last year ($1.8 billion).

In a July 16th statement, the bank attributed this increase to the 9.9% increase in the number of tourists to the kingdom, compared to the same period in 2016.

Jordan Restaurants Association director Eliana Janineh told Al-Mashareq that restaurants also have been seeing high turnout and an increase in foot traffic.

Festivals featuring major Arab and international performers play a major role in supporting the sector, she told Al-Mashareq, crediting an increase in tourism, particularly from the Gulf states.

"We are optimistic about the prospects of a prosperous season this year," she said.

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