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Jordan: year in review

Jordan: Sunday, December 30 - 2007 @ 13:12

Tourism

Jordan’s tourism industry received a boost in 2007 when the ancient Nabataean city of Petra was named one of the ‘new seven wonders of the world’
by the New7Wonders Foundation. The kingdom’s tourism industry had already been performing strongly before the announcement, with the total number of tourists up 13.8 per cent when compared to January-June of 2006, with around three million visitors making the journey, as opposed to 2.6 million in 2006.

Royal Jordanian registered the highest monthly total of passengers in its 44 year history in August when it transported 256,000 people. As you might expect, the influx of tourists has had a positive impact on Jordan’s tourism revenues, with $807m earned in the half-year period, a lift of more than 20 per cent on the $669m accrued by the end of June last year.

With Jordan relying heavily on tourism as a major component of its economy, the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) has looked to improve its exposure in some existing, but under-exploited, markets.

The JTB headed up Jordan’s delegation to the ITB Berlin travel exhibition in March, hoping to attract more of the 60 million Germans who take holidays abroad each year. The kingdom is also looking to tap into new markets in Russia, China, India, Kazakhstan and Turkey.

Real Estate

With sales of high-end residential units on the decline in Jordan, several developers launched projects in the kingdom that are intended for those in the low to middle income bracket.

Tameer International, part of the UAE based property developer Tameer Holding, announced that its first housing venture in the kingdom, Madinat Al Majd, will be mostly targeted to individuals with low to mid incomes. The development, which will be located in Zarqa, will cost about $500m and will comprise around 18,500 residential units, with 70 per cent of the units earmarked for those with limited means.

The Jordanian Company for Real Estate also announced that its new Al Jiza Residential City project will be aimed at the low to mid income bracket. The $900m project, which will be located 37 kilometres south of Amman, will provide around 16,000 residential units as well as offices and retail outlets. The prices of the apartments will start from around $28,400 and HSBC will cover 70 per cent of the value of any unit over a period of up to 20 years.

The largest residential project in the kingdom intended for those with limited means is the King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud Residential City, which is also being built in Zarqa.

The project will contain 70,000 residential units and will house around 370,000 people once it is complete. The Jordanian government has pledged to negotiate manageable loan packages with various financial institutions for those who intend to purchase a home in the development.

Meanwhile, Jordanian real estate development firm Saraya Holdings is seeking new opportunities overseas. In September, the firm’s urban development management arm, the Millennium Development International Company, invested $325m in the upcoming development of an international financial district zone in the South Johor area of Nusajaya, Malaysia.

Saraya has also joined forces with Kazakhstani real estate developer Kazemir Aktau to construct a mixed use development at Aktau City on the Caspian Sea, a centre of Kazakhstan’s oil and gas industry. Saraya Aktau will comprise a five star hotel, villas for sale and rent as well as a spa on a site covering around four million square feet.

Telecom and IT

Jordan’s telecom industry continues to set the regional benchmark for an open market largely free from governmental restriction. Three GSM operators – Zain, Orange and Umniah – fight for market share in a nation of just over six million people, while a fourth operator, Xpress, provides services via an integrated digital enhanced network (iDEN).

Telecom operators in the kingdom have much to compete for as the country has an effective mobile penetration rate of just 47.9 per cent as of July of this year. Nael Halawa, Managing Partner of Jordan’s Globitel, told AME Info that competition in the Jordanian telecom market has greatly benefited the consumer. ‘It has meant operators need to work hard on developing innovative services. Jordanian consumers are increasingly technologically minded and they have become very selective,’ he said.

The Jordan Telecom Group, supported by its majority shareholder France Telecom, set its sights on regional expansion by acquiring a controlling stake in the Bahrain-based Lightspeed Communications. The new tie-up will see the roll-out of a range of new services in Bahrain, including bundled broadband packages aimed at the residential market, small and medium sized enterprises as well as the corporate sector.

Meanwhile, in the IT sector, a strategic partnership between the kingdom’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MoICT) and Microsoft, which was first established in 2003, was renewed until 2009. The multi-million dollar tie-up will see Microsoft, via its strategic partner, the General Computers and Electronics Company, provide software licences, training and technical support to various governmental departments.

In September, Jordanian technology solutions and business consulting services company Optimiza announced its regional launch. Listed at the Amman Stock Exchange under the name Al Faris, Optimiza was formed in 2007 as the result of a merger of no less than nine IT firms.

The firm aims to be a leader in handling the increasing demand for quality systems integration, consulting and outsourcing across the region. In addition to its corporate offices in Jordan, the firm has regional operations in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Kuwait and Libya.

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Sunday, December 30- 2007 @ 13:12 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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