Just as tourism had started to recover, Omicron struck

Tourists enjoy Maain Hot Spring. (Photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — After witnessing a slight recovery this year, the Jordanian tourism sector took a beating as hundreds of trips to the Kingdom were canceled due to the spread of Omicron, which compounded the negative impact the prolonged COVID-19 crisis had on it, stakeholders said.اضافة اعلان

Some tourist guides said that all their booked tours had been canceled due to the decisions of some countries to ban travel to Jordan for tourism purposes.
Hotel Association President Abdelhakim Alhindi said that 70 percent of hotel reservations by foreign tourists were canceled, as were most bookings for weddings and New Year celebrations after the government made CPR tests taken 48 hours before attendance and proof of two shots of vaccine compulsory, Alhindi told Jordan News on Sunday.

Alhindi asked to have the PCR test replaced with the quick test (rapid lateral flow) or to exempt those who had three vaccine shots from having to undergo the test.

The spread of Omicron led to the cancellation of at least 85 percent of the bookings for the New Year holidays, Mahmoud Khasawneh, member of the board of directors of Jordan Society of Tourism and Travel Agents (JSTA), said Sunday.

Khasawneh said that no tourists from some countries in East Asia, such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and China, came to Jordan since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020.

Faith-based travel usually entails a combination of countries, and every country has its own rules for arrivals, which makes procedures too complicated for travelers, said the official.

This year, there was a slight recovery in tourism, especially in October, but it did not reach even 20 percent of the 2019 figures (the best year for Jordanian tourism), according to Khaswaneh.

In 2019, Jordan witnessed an unprecedented hike in the number of tourists, with Petra (Jordan’s largest attraction) celebrating its first one-millionth visitor.

Khasawneh said that according to strategic studies of international travel companies, tourism will not fully recover before 2024, but in the case of Jordan, the situation is worse, as the pandemic is not the only factor that affects tourism, but there is also the geopolitical factor that plays a role.

Khasawneh called for canceling the PCR test in the country from where tourists originate, as getting it done “is not as easy as in Jordan”; instead, tourists can have only one test done upon arrival.

He also called for exempting vaccinated tourists from taking the PCR test and reducing the prices of tests in general.

Khasawneh proposed designing subsidized trip packages during this period to reduce the cost for travel agents and encourage tourists to visit the Kingdom, and stressed that this period is an opportunity to participate in “reshaping the tourism map and placing Jordan [on it] as a major destination.”

60,000 Jordanians work in the tourism sector, directly and indirectly, and 692 travel agencies employ 5,295 people in permanent jobs, according to Khasawneh.

Jordan Tourism Board said that it supports any measure that would boost tourism and protect people's health at the same time.

Italian-speaking tourist guide Marwan Saad stressed that all his bookings for the coming season were canceled due to Italy’s placing Jordan in the “E” category, which bans Italians from coming to Jordan for tourism purposes.

“We breathed a sigh of relief after 15 months of complete tourism recess; now I am jobless again as the Italian authorities banned travel to Jordan from December 15 until January 31”, Saad told Jordan News in an interview on Sunday.

The New Year is the most important season for Jordanian tourist guides who speak Italian, according to Saad, who called for working on restoring the epidemiological status back to safe to enable tourism to resume.

Faisal Salitah, another tourists guide who accompanies this week a multi-national group, said that usually at this time of the year, the tourist sites would be full of tourists, but this week, the sites are almost empty.

According to official figures, tourism accounted for around 13 percent of Jordan’s GDP in 2019.

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