Officials defend costly entry to Jordan tourist sites

Egypt’s affordable prices places it ahead of Kingdom in popularity

(Photo: Unsplash)
(Photo: Unsplash)
AMMAN — A host to some of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the world, the Jordanian tourist sites of Petra, Dead Sea, Wadi Rum, and the Baptism Site bring yearly travelers from every corner of the world.اضافة اعلان

But even with annual flocks to the country, it's still less favorable than its neighboring Egypt.

The price difference seems to be the driving factor in the choice of destination. In 2019, the World Economic Forum's Travel and Tourism Competitiveness report determined that foreign tourists consider Egypt when seeking inexpensive vacations.

The report also showed that compared to Jordan, Egypt scores higher in areas such as air transport infrastructure, ground and port infrastructure, and tourist service infrastructure.

Tourism is vital for Jordan's economy. In 2019 alone, the sector, which generates over 50 thousand jobs, amassed JD5.9 billion, contributing 19.8 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the Ministry of Tourism.

With the Kingdom so dependent on the sector, the improvement and increase in the prosperous tourism industry are elemental to the continuation and growth of Jordan's economy.

"Back in 2019, Jordan witnessed the highest demand for years, and we look forward to getting back to that level,” said Abdel-Razzaq Arabeyyat, managing director of the Jordan Tourism Board, in an interview with Jordan News. “The new low-cost carriers that fly into Jordan have put Jordan on the map for EU travelers and lowering the cost of accessibility to the country automatically increases the demand.”

Petra is one of the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World,’ but many tourists wonder why the entry is so costly. A one-day ticket for foreign visitors is priced at JD50, equivalent to about $70. The $13 ticket to Egypt's Pyramid of Giza, one of the original Seven Wonders of the World, is substantially more affordable.

"You can say that Jordan is very expensive, but the quality of service in Jordan is preferable,” said Suleiman Farajat, Chief Commission of the Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority, in an interview with Jordan News.

“The low prices that you may find in Egypt are for minimum service, and in order to get something better you would have to upgrade, and that would be additional costs to them,” he explained. “So in the end it would turn out more expensive in Egypt to pay for (the same) quality.” Farajat added that although both Petra and the Pyramid of Giza are considered ancient wonders, they are not comparable.

"The entrance fee to Petra does not include just one site. It includes an archaeological area of around 262 square kilometers. So you don't visit only one monument, you visit hundreds of monuments," he said, in contrast to the pyramid, which lacks such a surrounding site.

Farajat also noted that the price of the ticket, in addition to providing a quality experience in the archaeological site, it includes a direct contribution to the local community.

The recent decision to replace horse-drawn carriages with electric club cars is part of what Farajat describes as a constant commitment to improve the quality of Petra for outside visitors.

Admission to world-famous archaeological sites isn't the only high costs tourists factor into their choice of destination. A taxi ride for a traveler from the airport to the city center differs greatly, with Amman having an estimated fair of $31.03, almost four times the amount than Cairo at $9.56.

"Living in Jordan, I wanted to go out of the country for vacation,” said Pauline PetitJean, an Amman-based teacher from Belgium, in an interview with Jordan News. “Compared to Jordan, Egypt is way cheaper and that's definitely a driving factor to me.”

Kirsten Forbes, a Canadian expatriate, mirrored that sentiment. "Jordan has Wadi Rum - you can't find the same experience in Egypt. The landscape is breathtaking,” she admitted. However, “Egypt is much cheaper and you can get far more for your money."

Even Jordanians complain of steep prices at Aqaba resorts. Jordanian Mais Barmawi said that the reason why she and her family will always choose Egypt over Jordan for vacations is "absolutely cost. There's a big difference when you go to Egypt and you have the complete open sea at a fraction of the price of Aqaba, which is literally a small gulf."

The problematic issue of cost has prompted vacationers, foreign and domestic, to consider the same alternatives. But the drawback could be that tourists who choose Egypt are passing on the quality of the experience in terms of accommodation, food, and transportation.

"Different quality will bring different prices. But before we talk about materialistic prices, we talk about the value," said Asanah Mustafa, area marketing manager at Jordan Tourism Board, in an interview with Jordan News.

Mustafa insisted that the value within Jordan cannot be matched. "We work on the legacy that we can leave in the mindset of the traveler. That's why we insist the price is a bit higher than other destinations."

At a meeting with representatives of the tourism sector at Al Husseiniya Palace on Sunday, His Majesty King Abdullah "called for the need to build on efforts to promote tourism to the "Golden Triangle" of Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba, as well as through the "Urdun Jannah" program, while also expanding on the impact of economic incentives provided to the sector and the relaunching of promotion campaigns for incoming tourists."

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