Five cities will compete for the title of Jordan's "distinctive destination" in a competition launched on Monday by the Tourism Ministry and USAID.
"Through the Distinctive Destinations Programme we seek to encourage Jordanian towns to capitalise on their core strengths, unique characteristics and assets to improve their tourism offerings," Tourism Minister Lina Annab said.
Speaking at the launch of the competition at Tiraz: Widad Kawar’s Home for Arab Dress, the minister said the contest is part of national efforts to preserve heritage and spread awareness of its importance.
She said communities are encouraged to work together to activate an entrepreneurial spirit that drives tourism development.
Karak, Jerash, Ajloun, Madaba and Balqa's Salt will participate in the competition, and each city will seek to prove that it offers tourists the best local experiences in areas like food, handicrafts and cultural activities.
Organisers hope the competition would help cities enhance their tourism services to increase the number of visitors and the amount each tourist spends, which, they said, would ultimately create jobs and boost local economies.
USAID Mission Director Jim Barnhart said the underlying theme of the programme is to discover new locations and experiences in Jordan, adding that there is much to discover even for those who think they know the Kingdom well.
He noted that each of the five competing cities has distinctive qualities, and the competition seeks to enhance the services they provide to tourists and to raise development levels.
The overall outcome will be an improvement in the livelihoods of members of the competing local communities, Barnhart added.
Each destination's municipality is responsible for working with private and public stakeholders throughout the competition, the organisers said.
Participating cities must be part of the ministry’s third tourism project, and should have a main attraction within two hours’ drive of the city centre. Each city should also have an active municipality and community capable of carrying out future activities.
The winning city is expected to have clear plans to improve its tourism sector, as well as a management team that is ready to cooperate with private and public sector entities.
The results are scheduled to be announced in October and the winning city will hold the title for three years, a period in which development work will take place, according to the organisers.
Through the USAID's Building Economic Sustainability through Tourism project, the Tourism Ministry and partners from the sector will provide the winning destination with technical expertise to develop a detailed and holistic tourism strategy.
Under the same partnership, the winning city will receive support for the development of small- and medium-sized enterprises as well as assistance in destination marketing.
By Dana Al Emam
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