After a disappointing 2011, the Kingdom’s tourism sector is looking to rebound in the coming year and continue to play its key role in supporting the economy, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Nayef Al Fayez said on Sunday."The sector's gross income reached JD1.9 billion last year," Fayez said during a press conference yesterday, noting that revenues dropped by 16.5 percent in the first 11 months of 2011. The number of visitors also fell by 35 percent last year, the minister said, adding that the number of tourist restaurants in the country also decreased. The minister attributed the industry’s decline in revenue last year to several factors. "The instability the region has witnessed and protests in Jordan were one of the factors that affected the sector in 2011," he remarked, echoing previous statements by ministry officials and industry stakeholders.
Fayez pointed out that the unstable financial situation in Europe also affected tourism in Jordan, which had become accustomed to hosting increasing numbers of European tourists over the past few years. However, last year also showed a few positive indicators, according to the minister. "The percentage of foreign labour [employed in the tourism sector] reached 17 percent, which is reasonable. We are working on several plans to reduce this figure and increase the percentage of local labour," he stressed.
The minister also indicated that the sector received around JD190 million in foreign financing between 1995 and 2011. "These funds played an important role in boosting and rehabilitating numerous tourism sites," Fayez emphasised, noting that the ministry intends to improve services at these sites to encourage domestic tourism. "Some tourist sites are not ready to host local visitors and must be provided with services like accommodation, restaurants and souvenir shops.
These sites will be ready to receive visitors this year," he said. Fayez stressed that the tourism industry will continue to be among the most important sectors in enhancing the local economy in the future. "We are examining plans and new programmes that will contribute to boosting the sector. We will reorganise several activities like the Citadel Nights and host new ones," he said.