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Jordan’s tourism sector rocked by Amman shooting

Jordan: Thursday, September 07 - 2006 @ 08:38

The shooting dead of a British tourist, and the wounding of six other people in the Roman Amphitheatre in the Jordanian capital, marks the latest in a string of incidents over the past few months which could impact on tourism in some parts of the Middle East. The 34 day war in nearby Lebanon, the suicide bombings targeting tourists in Dahab on Egypt’s Red Sea coast back in April and even the alleged plot revealed in the UK last month to blow up passenger aircraft may well dissuade a number of western tourists from venturing to the region.

Making gains

Before Monday’s tragic incident, Jordan had reason to feel cautiously optimistic about its tourism sector. Newly released statistics had revealed that Jordan received almost 3.4 million tourists between January and July, an increase of 8.2 per cent over the same period last year. Revenue had also been boosted by 8.4 percent, climbing to $843.5 million.

These figures show that Jordan’s major terrorist incident of last November in Amman, where 60 people lost their lives in a series of suicide bombings, had failed to make a big dent in an industry which provides 10% of the nation’s jobs and more than 10% of its GDP.

Planning ahead

Jordan has a clear, direct aim of doubling the size of its tourism industry by 2010 and, alongside this, generating much needed employment opportunities and entrepreneurial opportunities. Targets set out in its national strategy from 2004 include achieving revenues of more than $1.8 billion by 2010 and creating more than 50,000 additional jobs.

For Jordan, every terrorist attack that occurs in the wider region makes it harder for the kingdom to keep its plans on track. A significant number of tourists visit the country as part of a regional package tour, as indeed did the group affected by Monday’s shooting, and so any bombings of resorts or hotels in the likes of Turkey and Egypt, which also tend to be on the regular itinerary, will naturally have a consequential impact on Jordan’s tourism industry.

Long-term strategies and aggressive marketing campaigns by the Jordanian Tourist Board have helped keep the industry moving in the right direction during a difficult twelve months, but serious incidents occurring in the heart of the country’s capital can only slow progress.

Staying positive

Since the shooting occurred, Jordanian authorities have been at pains to stress that the gunman who attacked the tour party in Amman was acting alone and had no affiliation to any terrorist organisation. The Ministry of Tourism will be hoping that, as tragic as this event was, it proves to be an isolated incident and not the beginning of a wave of attacks.

Jordan’s tourism bread and butter is the Arab market and this has proved very resilient to the various risks associated with visiting parts of the Middle East. Last week’s MoT figures showed that over 2.5 million Arab and Gulf tourists came to Jordan between January and July. Moreover, Monday’s shooting seemed, ostensibly, to be aimed at western tourists and as long as no further problems occur, then this sizeable market will not really be affected by what transpired.

Jordan’s Minister of Tourism, Munir Nassar, said yesterday that, while the shooting will have a negative impact on Jordan’s tourism in the short term, travellers are becoming more accustomed to dealing with major incidents and are not being so readily deterred by them. The fact that Jordan’s tourism industry managed to absorb the horrific bomb attacks last November without any major losses will hold it in good stead to come through this latest episode and, once again, look to move on.

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Thursday, September 7- 2006 @ 8:38 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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