Despite the global and regional challenges that affected Jordan’s tourism industry last year, causing declines in visitor numbers and revenues, the sector is expected to grow this year, local and international tourism experts said on Tuesday.
Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), said the number of tourists worldwide is expected to top one billion this year, up from 982 million in 2011.
Jordan, he said, will be among the countries that benefit from this global growth as the country’s tourism industry has “solid roots”.
“The international community still has confidence in Jordan and tourism is the future of this region in general and Jordan in particular,” he added.
Rifai’s remarks were made at a press conference on the sidelines of the International Conference on Seizing Tourism Market Opportunities in Times of Rapid Change, which opened on Tuesday at the Dead Sea.
Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Nayef Al Fayez pointed out that the industry’s revenues grew 10.5 per cent in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2011, when tourist numbers and revenues dropped.
Figures he presented indicated that the number of group tourists dropped by 42 per cent last year compared to the year before.
Despite the sector’s instability in 2011, investments in tourism will continue in order to accommodate the expected growth in the number of visitors, Fayez said, noting that 5,000 hotel rooms are currently under construction in the Kingdom.
US Ambassador in Amman Stewart E. Jones said at the press conference that the high quality of hospitality services in Jordan and the diversity of its landscape attract large numbers of American tourists.
Figures he presented showed that 90,000 tourists from the US visited Jordan last year — the highest number among non-Arab countries.
He also stressed that the US is keen to support the sector through USAID.
The two-day conference, organised by the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) in cooperation with UNWTO, the World Travel and Tourism Council, and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, is hosting tourism leaders, tour operators and media representatives from across the world.
Speaking at the opening of the conference, JTB General Director Abdul Razaq Arabiyat said that 2011 was a year of rapid changes that called for rapid actions, noting that Jordan’s tourism sector had experience in responding rapidly to changes and that this was especially apparent in the past year.
David Scowsill, president of World Travel and Tourism Council, noted that tourism is the third largest industry in the world, contributing 9 per cent of global GDP.
The industry, he added, employs 98 million people and provides job opportunities for marginalised groups and women.