Adventure tourism thrives during pandemic

In this undated photo, a tourist practices rope climbing in Ajloun Governorate. Adventure tourism has taken off since the pandemic, according to guides. (Photo: JNews)
In this undated photo, a tourist practices rope climbing in Ajloun Governorate. Adventure tourism has taken off since the pandemic, according to guides. (Photo: JNews)
AMMAN — “For a very long time, adventure tourism in Jordan was not very known nor generally demanded by the locals,” said Saif Khlaifat, founder of Jonavigators. “For many reasons like fear or lack of knowledge about it or how to organize such activities.”اضافة اعلان

“Adventure tourism” describes a variety of outdoor activities. The category includes camping, hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing as well as trekking, mountain climbing, rafting, and paragliding. 

Khlaifat said that outdoor activities are accessible to almost anyone, no matter their fitness level. Jonavigators, a youth community that promotes outdoor culture, hosts easier hikes from 7-10km as well as more challenging hikes that start at 15km in length.  

Khlaifat explained that adventure tourism noticeably increased in popularity among young working urbanites in 2020 after the pandemic began. Short stays in nature allow participants to escape monotony and long days of confinement by discovering new destinations and meeting new people. 

He said that the pandemic “definitely had an impact on the business. It created a new market with more people willing to get out of the cities and do diverse activities, but (the pandemic) also diminished the numbers due to fears related to health.” 

Dalia Yusef, a young translator from Amman and outdoor enthusiast, told Jordan News about her newly found appetite for activities in nature. “In my free time, almost every weekend I go for a hike,” she said. “Before the pandemic, I did some hikes, but not often.” She explained that after three months of lockdowns and curfews, hiking “became a need to me, or rather a necessity ... we don’t have enough public spaces in the city.”

According to organizers, safety and health regulations imposed on the sector required them to limit buses to 70 percent of their capacity, which has impacted the cost-effectiveness of their trips. “We had to adapt, by finding break-even solutions that will allow us to keep going,” said Khlaifat. Most agencies have adapted to the regulations by splitting their groups into mini-vans instead of using buses. Additionally, some participants join the trips using their own cars to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19.

For Yusef, in addition to being more appealing, outdoor activities are now more focused on helping local communities. “Before (the pandemic), the guides used to cook for us. Now we get homemade food from local villagers that cook nice traditional dishes for us,” she said.  Ahmad Abu Hani from the adventure tourism department at the Jordan Tourism Board told Jordan News that this particular type of tourism has started to spread over the past 10 years. “There’s a variety of adventure tourism activities in Jordan such as hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and canoeing,” he said.

Yehya Khaled, director general of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), told Jordan News in an interview over the phone that the RSCN works on applying safety measures in areas it’s in charge of to the best of its extent in an attempt to attract both local and foreign tourists.

“We started with the Jordan Trail, doing parts of it, then slowly developed other trails that allowed more interaction with locals, as they are best at knowing their area,” Khlaifat said. 

The demand for domestic tourism has grown significantly in the last few years, according to Khlaifat. Over the last two years, the Jonavigators community expanded to about 2,000 participants. Most of these are between 18 and 35 years old, of whom 80 percent had their first hiking or camping experience with Jonavigators.