Visitor numbers to Petra have plunged over recent years, forcing several hotels to close. Jordan Hotel Association Chairman Michael Nazzal said a solid investment from the government and a thoroughly planned marketing operation are needed to attract tourists back to the historical site, which has long acted as a barometer for the health of Jordan’s wider tourism industry.
Why has tourism plunged in Petra?
Petra has witnessed a slump due to both the regional turmoil, which is a deterrent for many Western tourists, as well as a lack of state funding to promote the whole country. The number of visitors to Petra has declined to about 400,000 in 2014 from 800,000 in 2010.
What does this mean for the country’s economy?
The tourists who we used to attract to Petra, Aqaba, the Dead Sea, and Madaba for archaeological or religious reasons used local transport, guides, and bought traditional art crafts. All these tourism trades are now suffering because the [tourists] have largely stayed away from our sites.
How much did the new ‘Discover Your Country’ campaign succeed at encouraging internal tourism to fill the gap?
This will not really attract money to the sector, but will only help maintain the business running for the hotels. It is likely to attract around 200 people per weekend to Jordan’s sites. But if we think there are about 2,000 hotel rooms available in Petra, it won’t make a big difference.
What could help boost Jordan’s tourism figures?
Marketing, funds, unification of taxation across the country, and more entertainment to offer tourists. We also need a cut in operational costs. The problem of regional instability could be overcome if there was a JD10 million government investment on top of what Jordan’s tourism associations are already making available to support international advertising campaigns. Everything is set up to promote the country, from websites to tour operators active internationally, but we lack the money to do the next step; reaching the consumers worldwide.