Jordan saw healthy increases in visitor arrivals in 2017, thanks to the return of consumer confidence in the destination.
France was the frontrunner, up 22%; US visitation grew 9%, Germany by 7% and the UK by 6% compared with 2016.
Petra, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, saw 521,496 visitors – 44% more than in 2016.
Apart from Jordan’s most famous icon, adventure travel is becoming a main reason for choosing Jordan, particularly caving, cycling, climbing and canyoning. Last year saw the launch of the Jordan Trail, a 400-mile continuous route crossing the entire country and providing 40 days’ of hiking through 52 towns and villages.
Dr Abed Al Razzaq Arabiyat, Jordan Tourism Board managing director, says: “Since the Jordan Trail launched in March 2017, we have received an incredibly positive response from all those who have experienced it. The trail is proving to be a popular activity, with tour operators launching new experiences and selling out existing dates. For example, KE Adventure had a 500% increase in forward bookings for 2018 compared to 2017 and is now its third-highest performing trip for advance bookings.”
Jordan’s tourism industry is set for another major boost in 2018, with the billion-dollar expansion of two resorts in Aqaba in progress. One is Ayla resort, which is transforming a section of Aqaba’s seafront.
It is already home to Jordan’s first 18-hole championship golf course, and the next phase will be Marina District, including a five-star Hyatt Regency and a 300-berth marina. Four more districts will follow – Lagoons, Creek, Golf Hills and Avenue, comprising more than 4.3 million sq m of landscaped space for development.
The resort will feature a solar panel farm driving seawater into lagoons and lakes and powering the cooling systems and golf course, making it among the world’s most eco-friendly.
Aqaba’s other development is Saraya Resort, with 1,000 guestrooms in four five-star hotels (two Jumeirahs and two Starwoods) set around a mile-long lagoon with private beaches. There will also be a beach club, Jordan’s first water park and Aqaba’s first conference facilities for 2,000 delegates. With its Red Sea location, Aqaba is a popular dive centre, which is now enhanced with a specially sunk Hercules aircraft.
Jordan’s capital Amman also sees four new five-star hotels opening this year – the W, St Regis, Fairmont and Ritz-Carlton. Coupled with an emerging hipster scene thanks to the calibre of new restaurants, cafes and bars, Amman is becoming a serious city
Arabiyat says: “Amman is experiencing an influx of developments with new five-star hotels, plus the arrival of international businesses in the Abdali downtown area. With the recent announcement of 14 Ryanair flight routes from across Europe to Amman, the city is more accessible than ever.”
This year Jordan launched a week-long celebration of its cuisine and culinary traditions, billed as the country’s largest free event. More than 200 food artisans, chefs and farmers took part in Jordan Food Week in April, organised by the USAID Jordan Local Enterprise Support Project.
Jordan Tourism Board’s Dr Abed Al Razzaq Arabiyat says: “It was the first time we had seen a food event of this size in the capital. It was a brilliant opportunity for visitors to experience and sample our rich culinary diversity and it had huge benefit for local communities and producers too.”