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Deserts and forests on Jordan’s tourism radar

Jordan: Wednesday, August 16 - 2006 @ 10:37

In addition, away from Jordan’s large-scale tourism developments in Aqaba and along the shore of the Dead Sea, some projects are popping up in places off of the beaten track and providing a boost to employment: a tourism complex in Dibbeen, a remote area of beautiful woodland, being one such example.

Camel branding

Wadi Rum, a vast expanse of desert and dramatic rock formations, has always been one of Jordan’s premier tourist attractions but now Siyaha has launched an initiative that, according to the Jordan Times, will hopefully enable more of the area’s local population to make a living from its 140,000 annual visitors: in a country with poverty levels pushing 15 per cent, boosting small local businesses is crucial.

Local camel owners are being encouraged to have their animals inspected and then branded. The identification number that is scorched on to the camel’s skin stands as proof it is considered tame and healthy and, importantly, the branding mark also acts as an official licence for it to transport tourists. Most of the region’s 430 camels are expected to be branded.

Ramez Habash, a tourism and community specialist at Siyaha, told the Jordan Times that many tourists would like to venture into the desert on the back of a camel but are often hesitant due to safety concerns. It is hoped the new scheme will encourage more tourists to hire camels, thus providing additional income to local families.

Golden triangle

Siyaha is also financing local arts and crafts businesses as a means of increasing tourism revenue, but what might help Wadi Rum expand its tourism industry more than anything else is its location. Wadi Rum is part of southern Jordan’s Golden Triangle of attractions, being only an hour’s drive from both the Nabataean city of Petra and the rapidly expanding Red Sea coastal city of Aqaba.

Once Aqaba’s assorted multi billion dollar projects are complete and its various hotels and resorts are open for business, Wadi Rum will find itself in striking distance of a hugely increased number of tourists.

The Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority is hoping that, within the next four years, tourists will be spending two million nights a year in the city’s hotel rooms. Indeed, the Tala Bay resort alone will contain 5,000 hotel rooms. Such ambitious plans can only be good news for those living in areas like Wadi Rum.

Northern highlight

At the other end of the kingdom, back in May, Jordan Dubai Capital and the investment unit of the Social Security Corporation announced plans for a $142 million tourism complex in Dibbeen, an area of pine forest handily located for excursions to the ancient ruins at Jerash. The scheme includes five star hotels with a total of 500 rooms, convention halls, chalets and entertainment facilities.

Samir Rifai, the CEO of the JDC, was reported in the Jordan Times as saying that the complex would be one of the main investment projects in the region, providing vital job opportunities for up to 750 local people and enhancing the tourism industry in the area.

Indeed, the JDC is keen to play a more significant part in developing the Jordanian tourism industry and just last month linked up with Ishraq Gulf Real Estate Holding to build three budget hotels in the country at a cost of $45 million.

Fortune from misfortune

Jordan, with its mix of natural beauty and history, is not unlike Lebanon in some respects. But the relentless military bombardment it has endured at the hands of the Israeli army, will leave Lebanon struggling to attract visitors for some while. Jordan, with its varied mega developments and its more localised initiatives in the pipeline, stands to benefit in the medium term.

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Wednesday, August 16- 2006 @ 10:37 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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