Tourism in Jordanis big business. But why is tourism so important here and how should it be managed? Read on to find out…
Tourism in Jordan
Jordan, situated in the heart of the Middle East, is a bridge between ancient civilisations and modern cultures. From the archaeological wonders of Petra to the therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea, the country unfolds as a journey through time. In this article, I will provide a concise exploration of Jordan’s tourism highlights, encapsulating its historical depth and contemporary appeal.
Geographical overview of Jordan
Jordan is a small country located in the Middle East, bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south, Iraq to the east, Syria to the north, and Israel and Palestine to the west. The country has an area of about 89,342 square kilometres (34,495 square miles) and a population of around 10 million people.
Jordan is generally divided into three main regions: the eastern desert, the central highlands, and the western rift valley. The eastern desert, which covers about two-thirds of the country, is largely uninhabited and consists of arid, rocky terrain with a few scattered oases. The central highlands, which include the capital city of Amman, are the most densely populated area of the country and are characterised by rolling hills and fertile valleys. The western rift valley is a narrow strip of land that runs along the Jordan River and includes the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth.
Jordan’s climate is mostly arid and semi-arid, with hot summers and cool winters in the highlands, and extremely hot and dry conditions in the desert regions. Despite its harsh environment, Jordan has a rich cultural heritage and a number of important historical and archaeological sites, including the ancient city of Petra, the Roman ruins of Jerash, and the mediaeval castle of Ajloun.
Introduction to the tourism industry in Jordan
Jordan is a popular tourist destination in the Middle East, known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and warm hospitality. The tourism industry is an important contributor to the country’s economy, accounting for approximately 14% of the country’s GDP.
One of Jordan’s most famous tourist attractions is Petra, an ancient city carved into the red rock cliffs that is over 2,000 years old. Other popular sites include the Roman ruins of Jerash, the Dead Sea, the Wadi Rum desert, and the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ at the Jordan River. Jordan is also home to a number of nature reserves, including the Dana Biosphere Reserve and the Ajloun Forest Reserve, which offer opportunities for hiking, bird-watching, and other outdoor activities.
The tourism industry in Jordan is well-developed, with a range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to budget guesthouses. The country has an efficient transportation system, including buses and taxis, making it easy for tourists to get around. English is widely spoken in Jordan, which makes it easier for international visitors to communicate with locals.
In recent years, Jordan has focused on promoting sustainable tourism and ecotourism, with an emphasis on preserving the country’s cultural and natural heritage. The government has also taken steps to make the country more accessible to visitors, including offering visa-free entry to certain nationalities and extending the opening hours of tourist sites. Overall, Jordan’s tourism industry is a vital part of the country’s economy and offers visitors a unique and memorable travel experience.
Statistics about tourism in Jordan
Now lets highlight a few ket statistics about tourism in Jordan:
- In 2019, Jordan received around 4.5 million visitors, a 5% increase from the previous year.
- Tourism accounts for approximately 14% of Jordan’s GDP.
- The average length of stay for tourists in Jordan is around 6 nights.
- Petra, Jordan’s most famous tourist attraction, receives around 600,000 visitors per year.
- The majority of tourists to Jordan come from Europe, followed by North America and Asia.
- The tourism industry in Jordan employs around 50,000 people.
- The hotel occupancy rate in Jordan is around 55%.
- The average expenditure per tourist in Jordan is around USD $856.
- The Dead Sea, a popular tourist destination, has the lowest point on earth at 420 metres below sea level.
- In recent years, Jordan has focused on promoting sustainable tourism and ecotourism, with a goal of increasing the number of tourists while minimising the impact on the environment.
Most popular tourist attractions in Jordan
Jordan is home to many famous tourist attractions that are rich in history and culture. Here are some of the most popular tourist attractions in Jordan:
- Petra: Petra is Jordan’s most famous tourist attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ancient city, which dates back to the 3rd century BC, is carved into sandstone cliffs and features temples, tombs, and amphitheatres.
- Dead Sea: The Dead Sea is a saltwater lake that is located at the lowest point on earth. Visitors come to float in the salty water and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the mineral-rich mud.
- Wadi Rum: Wadi Rum is a desert valley that is known for its red sandstone formations and scenic landscapes. Visitors can take a jeep or camel tour to explore the area or go rock climbing or hiking.
- Jerash: Jerash is an ancient Roman city that is located in northern Jordan. The ruins include a theatre, temples, and a colonnaded street, all of which provide a glimpse into the life of ancient Romans.
- Amman Citadel: The Amman Citadel is an ancient fortress that is located in the heart of Amman, Jordan’s capital city. The site features Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic ruins and offers panoramic views of the city.
- Aqaba: Aqaba is Jordan’s only coastal city and is located on the Red Sea. Visitors come for the sandy beaches, water sports, and coral reefs.
- Madaba: Madaba is a small town that is famous for its mosaics, including a map of the Holy Land that dates back to the 6th century AD.
- Dana Biosphere Reserve: The Dana Biosphere Reserve is a nature reserve that is located in southern Jordan. The reserve is home to a variety of flora and fauna and offers hiking and camping opportunities.
- Ajloun Castle: Ajloun Castle is a mediaeval fortress that is located in northern Jordan. The castle was built in the 12th century and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
- The Baptism Site of Jesus Christ: The Baptism Site of Jesus Christ is located on the Jordan River and is believed to be the site where Jesus was baptised. The site features churches, monasteries, and a baptismal pool.
Most popular types of tourism in Jordan
Jordan offers a diverse range of tourism opportunities, catering to different interests and preferences. Here are some of the most popular types of tourism in Jordan:
- Cultural tourism: Jordan is home to many ancient and historic sites that attract tourists interested in learning about the country’s rich history and culture. The ancient city of Petra, the Roman ruins of Jerash, and the biblical sites of Mount Nebo and Bethany Beyond the Jordan are just a few examples.
- Adventure tourism: Jordan’s natural landscapes, including the desert valleys of Wadi Rum and the mountains of the Dana Biosphere Reserve, offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, rock climbing, and camping.
- Religious tourism: Jordan is a significant destination for religious tourism, with numerous sites of biblical importance, including the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ, Mount Nebo, and Bethany Beyond the Jordan.
- Health and wellness tourism: The Dead Sea is a popular destination for health and wellness tourism due to its high mineral content and therapeutic properties. Visitors come to float in the sea, apply mud masks, and indulge in spa treatments.
- Ecotourism: Jordan has made significant efforts to promote sustainable and responsible tourism, with a focus on protecting the environment and supporting local communities. The country’s nature reserves, including the Dana Biosphere Reserve and the Azraq Wetland Reserve, offer opportunities for eco-friendly tourism activities.
- Culinary tourism: Jordan’s cuisine is a blend of traditional Arab and Mediterranean flavours and features dishes such as mansaf, falafel, and mezze. Visitors can take food tours, attend cooking classes, and sample local specialties at restaurants and markets.
- Business tourism: Jordan is also a popular destination for business tourism, with modern conference centres and hotels that host international conferences, meetings, and events.
Economic impacts of tourism in Jordan
Tourism is an essential sector of the Jordanian economy, and it has significant economic impacts on the country. Here are some of the economic impacts of tourism in Jordan:
- Employment: Tourism is a labour-intensive sector, and it generates employment opportunities for the local population. The sector employs a range of workers, including hotel staff, tour guides, drivers, and restaurant workers. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism in Jordan supported approximately 177,000 jobs in 2019, accounting for 7.9% of total employment.
- Revenue generation: Tourism is a significant source of foreign exchange earnings for Jordan. According to the World Bank, tourism receipts accounted for approximately 10% of Jordan’s GDP in 2019. In 2020, however, tourism revenue declined significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Business opportunities: Tourism creates business opportunities for entrepreneurs in various sectors, such as food and beverage, handicrafts, transportation, and retail. Local businesses benefit from the increased demand for goods and services, particularly in tourist destinations.
- Infrastructure development: Tourism development requires the construction and improvement of infrastructure, including airports, roads, hotels, and other tourism-related facilities. Such development can benefit the local community by improving access to basic services and facilities, such as water and electricity.
- Cultural preservation: The promotion of tourism in Jordan also contributes to the preservation and conservation of the country’s cultural and historical heritage. The preservation of cultural sites and traditions is not only essential for tourism but also for the identity and pride of the local community.
- Regional development: Tourism development can also contribute to regional development by encouraging investment in less developed areas of the country. This can help to reduce regional disparities in terms of economic opportunities and access to basic services.
Overall, tourism has significant economic impacts on Jordan, and it is an important sector for the country’s development and growth.
Social impacts of tourism in Jordan
Tourism can have both positive and negative social impacts on local communities in Jordan. Here are some of the social impacts of tourism in Jordan:
- Cultural exchange: Tourism can facilitate cultural exchange and promote understanding between people of different cultures. Visitors to Jordan can learn about the country’s customs and traditions, while locals can learn about the visitors’ cultures.
- Preservation of cultural heritage: Tourism can also contribute to the preservation of cultural heritage by raising awareness and generating funds for the restoration and conservation of historical and cultural sites. The preservation of cultural heritage is essential for the identity and pride of local communities.
- Employment opportunities: Tourism creates employment opportunities for the local population, particularly in rural areas where other job opportunities may be scarce. The tourism sector employs a range of workers, including hotel staff, tour guides, drivers, and restaurant workers.
- Increased demand for goods and services: Tourism in Jordan can generate increased demand for goods and services, which can benefit local businesses and entrepreneurs. Local businesses can benefit from the increased demand for goods and services, particularly in tourist destinations.
- Socioeconomic inequalities: Tourism in Jordan can exacerbate socioeconomic inequalities if the benefits of tourism are not distributed equitably. For example, local communities may not have access to tourism-related jobs, or the benefits of tourism may be concentrated in urban areas.
- Cultural commodification: Tourism can also lead to the commodification of culture, where local traditions and customs are presented to tourists in a way that is simplified and stereotyped. This can lead to a loss of authenticity and cultural identity.
- Environmental impacts: Tourism in Jordan can also have negative environmental impacts, such as overuse of water resources, pollution, and destruction of natural habitats. These impacts can have social implications for local communities, such as reduced access to clean water and damage to the natural landscape.
Overall, tourism in Jordan can have significant social impacts on local communities, and it is essential to manage tourism development in a way that maximises the benefits while minimising the negative impacts.
Environmental impacts of tourism in Jordan
Tourism can have both positive and negative environmental impacts on Jordan’s natural resources and ecosystems. Here are some of the environmental impacts of tourism in Jordan:
- Water use: Jordan is a water-scarce country, and tourism can put pressure on the country’s already limited water resources. Hotels, restaurants, and other tourism-related facilities consume a significant amount of water, particularly in areas where water resources are already under stress.
- Land use: Tourism development requires the construction of new hotels, resorts, and other infrastructure, which can lead to the conversion of natural areas into developed land. This can have negative impacts on wildlife habitats and biodiversity.
- Waste generation: Tourism generates a significant amount of waste, including food waste, plastic waste, and wastewater. Improper waste management can lead to pollution of rivers, beaches, and other natural areas.
- Carbon emissions: Tourism-related transportation, such as flights and driving, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. Climate change can have significant environmental impacts, such as more frequent and severe droughts, floods, and extreme weather events.
- Environmental degradation: Tourism in Jordan can also contribute to environmental degradation, such as soil erosion, deforestation, and loss of biodiversity. Overuse of natural resources, such as water and wood, can lead to the depletion of these resources and damage to the natural landscape.
- Pressure on natural resources: Tourism in Jordan can put pressure on natural resources, such as coral reefs, beaches, and forests, particularly in areas with high tourist density. This can lead to overuse and degradation of these resources, affecting their long-term sustainability.
Overall, tourism in Jordan can have significant environmental impacts on Jordan, and it is essential to manage tourism development in a way that minimises the negative impacts while maximising the benefits. Sustainable tourism practices, such as water conservation, waste reduction, and renewable energy use, can help to mitigate the environmental impacts of tourism.
Crime and safety
Jordan is generally a safe country for tourists, with low levels of crime compared to many other countries. However, visitors should still exercise caution and take appropriate safety measures to ensure their safety.
Here are some safety tips for travellers in Jordan:
- Be aware of your surroundings: Like in any other country, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings at all times. Avoid walking alone at night, especially in poorly lit areas.
- Be cautious when using public transportation: While public transportation is generally safe in Jordan, it’s still important to be cautious, especially when using buses and taxis. Make sure to only use licensed taxis and negotiate the fare in advance.
- Respect local customs and traditions: Jordan is a conservative Muslim country, and visitors should respect local customs and traditions. Dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites, and avoid public displays of affection.
- Avoid political demonstrations: While political demonstrations are rare in Jordan, they can occur. Visitors should avoid participating in or attending political demonstrations or other large gatherings.
- Take precautions when hiking: Jordan has many beautiful hiking trails, but visitors should take appropriate safety precautions, such as staying on marked trails, carrying enough water and food, and informing someone of their itinerary.
- Carry identification and emergency contact information: Visitors should carry identification and emergency contact information at all times, including the phone number of their embassy or consulate.
- Be prepared for emergencies: Visitors should be prepared for emergencies, such as natural disasters or medical emergencies, by carrying a first aid kit and knowing the location of the nearest hospital or medical facility.
Overall, Jordan is a safe country for tourists, but visitors should still exercise caution and take appropriate safety measures to ensure their safety.
FAQs about tourism in Jordan
Now that we know a bit more about tourism in Jordan, lets answer some of the most common questions on this topic:
What is the best time of year to visit Jordan?
The best time to visit Jordan is in the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) when the weather is mild and pleasant. Summers can be hot, with temperatures reaching up to 40°C (104°F), while winters can be cold and rainy.
Is Jordan safe for tourists?
Jordan is generally a safe country for tourists, with low levels of crime and political stability. However, visitors should still exercise caution and take appropriate safety measures.
What is the currency in Jordan?
The currency in Jordan is the Jordanian Dinar (JOD).
Do I need a visa to visit Jordan?
Visa requirements for Jordan vary depending on your nationality. Some countries are eligible for a visa on arrival, while others require a visa to be obtained in advance.
What is the official language of Jordan?
The official language of Jordan is Arabic, but English is widely spoken, especially in tourist areas.
What are the most popular tourist attractions in Jordan?
The most popular tourist attractions in Jordan include Petra, Wadi Rum, Jerash, and the Dead Sea.
What is the dress code in Jordan?
Jordan is a conservative Muslim country, and visitors should dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites. Women should cover their shoulders and knees, and men should avoid wearing shorts.
Can I drink alcohol in Jordan?
Alcohol is legal in Jordan, but it is not widely consumed and can be expensive. Some hotels and restaurants serve alcohol, but it is not sold in supermarkets or corner stores.
What is the time zone in Jordan?
Jordan is in the Eastern European Time Zone (EET), which is 2 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+2).
What is the voltage in Jordan?
The voltage in Jordan is 230V/50Hz, and the country uses Type C and Type F electrical outlets. Visitors from countries with different voltage or plug types will need to bring a voltage converter and/or adapter.
To Conclude: Tourism in Jordan
Jordan, bridging millennia of history with the vibrancy of present-day culture, stands as a testament to the enduring allure of the Middle East. As our exploration of its archaeological sites and modern hubs concludes, the multifaceted charm of Jordanian tourism emerges distinctly. For those yearning for a journey that intertwines ancient wonders with contemporary marvels, Jordan remains an evocative and unparalleled destination.
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