West Bank travel through Israel harms Jordan

(File photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — West Bank residents taking up an offer to travel through an Israeli airport will harm Jordan’s tourism and flight industry, experts contended.اضافة اعلان

Recently, Israel said it plans to allow West Bank Palestinians to travel via an Israeli airport, offering them an alternative to crossing the King Hussein Bridge into the Kingdom.

For decades, West Bank travelers used the King Hussein Bridge into Jordan, where they would continue onward to their final destination.

The first chartered flight for West Bank travelers is set to leave from Ramon International Airport near Eilat, in southern Israel, later this month, The Jerusalem Post reported last week.

The Israeli decision sparked widespread dismay among aviation experts and tour operators interviewed by Jordan News, who contended that this will leave a negative impact on the local tourism sector.

Fly Jordan CEO Amjad Al-Maslamani said that “local airlines have relied for a long time on transporting a large percentage of Palestinians to neighboring countries.”

 “We have to preserve this market and not lose it. Therefore the best solution, in this case, is to keep the bridge open all the time to alleviate overcrowding,” he pointed out.

Mahmoud Al-Awadi, owner of a tourism and travel office, said that “this decision affects not only the tourism sector, but also the Jordanian economy in general in view of the likelihood of lost revenues from a drop in bridge activities.”

“Palestinian travelers constitute more than 35 percent of the tourism sector’s revenues, especially from umra programs,” he added.

Jordan Aviation CEO Zuhair Al-Khashman said that “this decision will greatly affect the tourism sector, as it will stop the movement of Palestinians travelling through Queen Alia International Airport.”

He said that “it will deprive Jordan from tax fees on tickets, which amount to 60 percent per person. It will also deprive us of other tourist expenses.”

However, President of Jordan Inbound Tour Operators Association Awni Kawar insisted that this decision “addresses the problem of overcrowding on the King Hussein Bridge, and eases the suffering of travelers, especially with the recent increase in travelers and the significant problems it has caused”.

“Despite the negative impact it might have, I still see that the decision is positive in general, because the problem of overcrowding is an issue that must be addressed,” he pointed out.

Travelers crossing from the West Bank through the King Hussein Bridge have been complaining of overcrowding and chaotic scenes at the Jordanian side.

Last month, Minister of Interior Mazen Al-Farraya accused the Israeli side of being the reason for overcrowding at the bridge because of its slow handling of traffic on the other side of the bridge.

Jordan and the Palestinian Authority want the bridge open around the clock. Israel, under US pressure, is said to have agreed to keep the bridge open 24 hours a day as of September.

Palestinian travelers, however, said that the Jordanian side is creating difficulties as well by having a limited number of immigration windows open to process entry while there is no system for luggage handling.

Some passengers claim to walk a long distance under a scorching sun to reach their ride to Amman.

Reacting to the Israeli decision, one travel expert, who requested anonymity, asked: “Why not turn the King Hussein Bridge into a modern passenger terminal so that passengers can pass through quickly and easily and maintain a preference to travel abroad through Amman?”

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