‘Wadi Araba reopening could boost Aqaba tourism by up to 35%’

Wadi Araba Border Crossing, between Jordan and Israel, is seen in the southern govornorate of Aqaba. (Photo: JNews)
AMMAN — The Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) has announced plans to reopen the Wadi Araba border crossing within the coming days.اضافة اعلان

The reopening will boost tourist flow to Aqaba by at least 30 percent to 35 percent, Commissioner for Tourism and Economic Affairs at ASEZA Sharhabeel Madi told Jordan News.

Madi added that the authority hopes to finalize arrangements to have the crossing reopened before the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid Al-Fitr, noting that the countries involved will coordinate on the pertinent health and safety procedures.

In a statement, ASEZA said that the re-opening will require visitors to observe standard health measure, noting that the authority will coordinate on the matter with the Ministry of Health, among other stakeholders. ASEZA also called on Jordanians to take the COVID-19 vaccine to turn Aqaba into a virus-free zone.

According to the statement, the move will restore tourism, economic, and commercial life in Aqaba, advance economic development and support the national economy. 

Obaid Yaseen, head of the tourism committee in the Lower House, told Jordan News that this is a “step forward” to revive the tourism sector in Jordan. 

Yaseen explained that the reopening of the Wadi Araba border is the beginning of a larger plan to reopen all of Jordan’s border crossings.

Sahel Dudin, CEO of Ayla Oasis Development Company, which operates a variety of properties in Aqaba, said that this step is a “good sign” for the tourism sector, especially hotel owners. 

“In Ramadan, occupancy rates are less than 10 percent, while on the weekends they do not exceed 20 percent,” he said. 

Dudin explained that while occupancy rates are currently “modest”, there is demand from tourists who wish to visit Jordan, which in turn will positively affect tourism and hotel occupancy. 

He stressed that the decision must be concurrent with fewer curfew hours in order to adequately increase tourism rates.  

But hotelier Hashim Bardini was cautious not to raise his hopes up about the decision. “Things are still unclear, nothing is clear yet,” he said in an interview with Jordan News. “We have no idea about the numbers of people who might be coming in. But it is a good step to announce the opening of the crossing.” 

Bardini added that his hotel, which comprises 12 rooms, has not seen any bookings since February. 

Saeb Abu Abboud, Director of Aqaba Health, pointed out that a targeted vaccination campaign began in the southern governorate last week, in part, to increase tourism to and within the coastal city. 

He said that the campaign was the byproduct of government recommendations seeking to achieve a safe summer in Aqaba.

The campaign will add six vaccination centers to the existing three in Aqaba for a total of nine; and will focus on the industrial, tourist, and commercial sectors. Medical staff will vaccinate employees at their places of work in a push to immunize half of Aqaba’s population by the end of the holy month.

 “We vaccinate about 1,500 people a day, and at this rate, we will have given the vaccine to more than half of (Aqaba’s) population who must be vaccinated by the end of this month. At the end of Ramadan, we will have vaccinated more than 45,000 out of an inoculation target of 70,000 residents,” Abu Abboud said.