Tourism strategy draws mixed reactions over effectiveness

1. Tourism Strategy
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AMMAN — Tourism stakeholders on Wednesday said that the tourism strategy released by the Ministry of Tourism this week does not come at an appropriate time as the sector is currently faced with contingency situation imposed by COVID-19 crisis, but others hailed the timing as conducive, saying the sector needs to be redesigned in a manner that ensures stability and the means to deal with crises.اضافة اعلان

The Cabinet had earlier approved the National Strategy for Tourism for the years 2021–2025, which aims at increasing the numbers of incoming tourists to the Kingdom, raise tourism revenue, and create additional employment opportunities for Jordanians. 

In general, the strategy aims to meet and perhaps exceeding the record numbers that were achieved in 2019, when the Kingdom received 5.3 million tourists and amassed JD4.1 billion in revenue, Tourism Minister Nayef Fayez said in an interview with the Jordan News Agency, Petra, on Sunday.

Fayez reviewed the strategy’s main goals that comprise four stages to overcome the pandemic’s repercussions on tourism, which are response, recovery, resume operation and reforms.

Mahmoud Khasawneh, member of the board of directors of the Jordan Society of Travel Agents, said that the sector’s recovery cannot be done without such a strategy that considers all challenges and responds accordingly.

“There is a whole section in the strategy that offers ideas on how to deal with the drop in the number of tourists and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the sector”, said Khasawneh.

According to Khasawneh, JD61 million were allocated to the strategy, which will be managed by the Tourism Ministry, Jordan Tourism Board and the Department of Antiquities.

President of Jordan Hotel Association Abdulhakim Alhindi commended the strategy, describing it as a realistic plan that is based on a systematic approach to deal with the sector’s challenges, and facilitate efforts to overcome the repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis.

Yousef Zuraiqat, a tourism expert, believes the strategy must give priority to increased financial allocations from the central treasury to the tourism sector.  “The strategy did not mention accessible tourism; which means developing sites and means of transportation that are accessible to people with disabilities, Zuraiqat told Jordan News. 

Zuraiqat stressed that advancing and employing technology in the sector must not affect existing jobs or lead to layoffs of employees at hotels, or tour guides and drivers, noting that the introduction of some online applications would leave some workers jobless.

He noted that the “map of hotels” should be reshaped to include governorates that lack or have a shortage of hotels such as Karak, Jerash, and Tafileh.
Hani Massadeh, president of the Jordan Tourist Guides Association, said that the strategy comes in an “obscure near future”, which means efforts should be focused on how to deal with the current drop in tourist numbers because of COVID-19.

Unemployment rate among tourist guides has reached more than 90 per cent due to the lack of booking and cancellation of trips, according to Massadeh.
He reiterated the need to exempt workers and facilities from licensing renewal fees not only collected by the ministry but also fees paid to the Jordan Tourism Board, municipalities, as well as the Aqaba and Petra authorities.

He noted the government’s appreciation of the hardships of the sector, having expressed willingness to reschedule the repayment of loans provided to people in the tourism industry a few months after the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020 and the closure of all tourists’ sites in Jordan, and has pledged to reduce monthly installment. 

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