The wave of violence that swept the West Bank and Gaza Strip is taking its toll on the tourism industry, with tourists across the board cancelling their trips to the region.
But Jordan's image as a stable country in a volatile region has helped preserve the influx of tourists who chose Jordan as their exclusive destination, tourism industry sources said on Wednesday.
“Some tourists coming to Jordan, Egypt and Israel as part of a regional tour are either cancelling or postponing their trips. But travel packages to the Kingdom, as a sole itinerary, remain unaffected,” said Mazen Hmoud, deputy general manager of the Jordan Tourism Board.
Some tour operators, whose business is captive to the ebb and flow of the Middle East peace process, say they have felt the dire impact of Al Aqsa uprising on their businesses.
“The situation is bad, we are expecting cancellations any time. There is no demand for the time being, even though it is the high season,” said Firas Hafez, director of Pan Arabian Travel. “Our market is sensitive.”
Hafez, whose business is focused on the European market, said confirmed groups of French tourists cancelled their trips to Jordan for the end of this year, while other overseas tourists have cancelled their trips even into 2001.
President of the Jordan Society of Tourist Travel Agents Bishara Sawalha said some five per cent of potential tourists are cancelling their itineraries.
“We don't know what is going on yet, every day there is a different reaction,” he said. “But for tourists targeting Jordan, we are a peaceful destination.”
Industry sources say that tourists scheduled to visit Jordan and Israel as part of a combined programme, have cancelled their reservations.
Tourists arrivals to Jordan from Israel soared by 22 per cent in the first seven months of this year. Some 90 per cent of those tourists were Arab Israelis, who make up 20 per cent of the Israeli population.
An Israeli diplomat said Israel issued a travel advisory asking its nationals to refrain at this stage from visiting Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Indonesia — the most populist Islamic country in the world. Those who would like to travel at their own risk are advised to take precautions.
“The consulate section at the Israeli embassy is not working at full capacity as most of the employees have not returned from their [Yom Kippur] holiday in Israel, but they will come back to the embassy to take up their posts as soon as the tension subsides,” the source added.
According to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities figures, tourist arrivals to the Kingdom climbed by 10 per cent in the first quarter of this year.
The Kingdom has set a target of $1 billion in revenues from the tourism industry — the second largest generator of hard currency — this year. But tourism representatives have warned that all these estimates could drop, partly because of the deadlock in the Middle East peace process. ― (Jordan Times)
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)