New defense order issued to support tourism sector

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AMMAN —  Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh on Wednesday issued Defense Order No.29 to provide support to the Kingdom’s struggling tourism sector.اضافة اعلان

The tourism sector’s losses had exceeded 85 percent by November 2020, according to estimates by Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

The tourism sector provides over 53,000 direct jobs and over 150,000 indirect jobs, according to the Jordan Strategy Forum.

However, 23,000 workers in the tourism sector have lost their jobs and 480 restaurants, and 183 hotels have shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, President of the Economic and Social Council Al-Mohammad Halaiqa said on Wednesday during a session discussing the global economic situation.

 The new order requires travel agencies to repay the rescinded bank guarantees when they renew their licenses in 2022. But stakeholders and travels agents found the newly introduced measure to be “insufficient”.

Vice President of Jordan’s Society of Tourism and Travel Agents Jamal Damen said that the new defense order would provide greater relief if it was extended for more than a year.

“We cannot consider this defense order as a response to our protest and demands. We requested to retrieve our bank guarantees one year ago, and the government only responded today,” Damen told Jordan News.

Salem Omari, rapporteur of the Tourism and Antiquities Committee at the Lower House believes this new order is a step in the right direction to help an ailing sector.

“This new order is a good decision … it is a moderate response” he told Jordan News over the phone.

Travel agency owners are not pleased with the new order as they believe it does not bring anything to the table.

“The decision will only benefit smaller companies but larger ones,” Awni Kawar, owner of Petra Tourism and chairman of the Incoming Tourist Association, told Jordan News over the phone.

“Travel agencies are asking the government to facilitate loans and liquidity. The government is trying to help, but this is not what we needed,” he added.

“We need something to help us sustain our agencies since COVID-19 will continue to affect us until the end of the year,” he concluded.

According to Damen, the Central Bank of Jordan took measures to provide the sector with JD500 million, but they referred the travel agencies to commercial banks, which then turned down their application, noting that it’s “way too risky to loan an ailing sector.”

In late March, travel agents protested the lack of government support during a particularly difficult time for the sector.

Members of the Jordan Society of Tourism and Travel Agents, observing the Defense Law prohibiting large gatherings, divided themselves into four batches of 20 to take turns in a sit-in at the entrance of their union in Amman.

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