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Commercial flight brings hope for tourism

An undated photo showing the interior of the King Hussein Airport in Aqaba. (Photo: Jordan News)
An undated photo showing the interior of the King Hussein Airport in Aqaba. (Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — The first commercial plane to land in Aqaba since the start of the pandemic touched down at King Hussein International Airport on Saturday. The plane came from Bulgaria with 180 passengers and tourists on board.اضافة اعلان

In a statement, Commissioner for Tourism and Economic Affairs at the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) Sharhabeel Madi, confirmed that the plane landed with a tour group from Bulgaria as part of a program aimed at rejuvenating tourism to Jordan’s “Golden Triangle,” — which includes Wadi Rum, Petra, and Aqaba.

Madi stated that there are more pending requests for foreign trips to Aqaba. He added that the aircraft is the first commercial flight to Aqaba’s airport since the Kingdom closed its air and land crossings to combat the pandemic in mid-March 2020.

The commissioner also said that Aqaba is awaiting the return of tourist groups soon within the terms and conditions approved by the Ministry of Tourism, the Aqaba Authority, the Petra Authority, and the Jordan Hotel Association.

The guided tour will last seven days for each group, Madi told Jordan News, adding that Aqaba is scheduled to receive groups from Russia next week. He explained that the travelers are aware of the nature of the partial curfew currently in place.

The commissioner said that despite the trip, ASEZA is committed to public health measures: “All of the passengers performed PCR test,” and many have had vaccinations, he said.

“In regards to the curfew hours, Aqaba may have (implement) special procedures with regard to some facilities if the number of those who received vaccination reaches 80 percent,” Madi said.

The arrival represents the first glimpse of hope for Aqaba, which has suffered economically from the almost complete closure of tourism.

The beachfront city usually relies heavily on the inflow of tourists and the economic stimulus they bring. Aqaba officials have previously announced their plan to ramp up vaccination in the city, hoping to make it a COVID-free oasis for tourists by the summer.

Madi said that bookings were distributed among three and four-star hotels, with a very small number of booked at five star hotels. A total of 6 hotels received tourists.

Saleh Hlalat, director general of Jordan Experts Company, told Jordan News that the sector has suffered greatly since the beginning of the pandemic, with a loss of more than JD2 billion.

Hlalat said that the company is planning another trip from Bulgaria on May 21.

Omar Smadi, the director of public relations and passenger services at Aqaba Airports Company, the operator of King Hussein International Airport, said that they are ready to receive passengers while adhering to public safety measures.

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