It’s a brave and honest government official who states publically that tourism to their country is down 60%, and that without the support of international tour operators and media then many thousands of people, dependent on tourism, will struggle to put food on the table this October. Yet this was the very frank and honest message that Senator Akel Biltaji, from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, gave last Thursday night at an official Jordan Tourism Board function.
10 year ago this September, on the 10th September 2001 to be precise, I arrived in Jordan for the first time, the first of almost 40 visits as an official representative of the Jordan Tourism Board in the UK. As with all travel I didn’t really know what to expect, even if I had flicked through the Rough Guide, but I was hoping for great experiences and above all a memorable trip. There were Great experiences aplenty but it was also the most memorable trip of my life. At approximately 3pm, the following day, whilst on a guided tour of Jerash, one of the best preserved cities of the Roman Empire, we heard that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York. This was the first incident that would change the face of marketing and promoting a Muslim country in the Western World forever. Until that first plane struck the World Trade Centre, tourism and visitors to Jordan for that coming Autumn season were at an all-time high. Within two days the majority of planned visitors had cancelled and by the end of the week the remainder had either cancelled or postponed their tours. Tourism was annihilated and Jordan wasn’t even involved or mentioned in the 9 / 11 attacks.
10 years later and through no fault of Jordan’s, tourism to this little Kingdom is suffering a backlash from events in other countries. I knew things were bad and that bookings were down but I didn’t realise just how bad the situation was until Senator Biltaji made his impassioned speech last week.
Of course bookings are down and now that I work for On the Go Tours I am even more aware of that, but 60% down across the Western World is distressing. Quite frankly I thought us Westerners were more geographically aware than that. Is Jordan safe? Of course it’s safe, as safe as anywhere including London, Sydney or New York. I’ve travelled extensively through Jordan with press, tour operators and even my children to highlight how safe it is, but how do you get that message across to the travelling public? Well, I guess in reality you can’t, because it always looks as though you’re just trying to sell a holiday! But for a country that depends more and more on tourism to keep it afloat, by just visiting Jordan and spending money you are helping the people on the street. So why don’t you give it a go, help this fantastic country get itself back on its feet and by doing so put food on the table of families across the country who have become completely dependent on the tourist dollar!