Jordan attracts tourists with the promise of adventure

Hikers explore the scenery in Umm Qais in northern Jordan with views of the Golan Heights and Sea of Galilee. (Baraka)
Updated 14 September 2017
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Jordan attracts tourists with the promise of adventure

AMMAN: From the guesthouse roof, the panorama takes in three countries, meandering from the ruins of ancient Gadara on a Jordanian hilltop, over the Sea of Galilee with the city of Nazareth visible in the distance, and across green fields to the Golan Heights.
It’s one of the main reasons visitors make their way up to the small village of Umm Qais in north Jordan, which is also home to one of the Decapolis cities of ancient Rome.
Yet few stay overnight and the village derives little profit from those coming to take in its extraordinary sites. Most tourists dash up on a day trip from Amman before making their way down to Petra, according to Roddy Boyle, Lodge Manager at Beit Al Baraka guesthouse.
“The destinations in the south (Petra, Aqaba, the Dead Sea) are more publicized, but Umm Qais is quite unique, there’s nothing like it in Jordan,” said Boyle, who has spent a year living among the community here and experiencing Jordanian hospitality firsthand.
Visitors planning to take in Jordan’s Roman ruins would more likely head to Jerash just outside Amman, rather than making the 90-minute drive up to Umm Qais in the north, put off perhaps by its proximity to the border with Syria.
There seemed little call for tourist accommodation in the village, but Baraka, the sustainable tourism company behind Beit Al Baraka guesthouse, is determined to push Umm Qais higher up the visitor agenda and harness the area’s tourism potential for the benefit of the local community.
“By creating a cluster of tourism experiences, we have been able to increase the length of stay of visitors in Umm Qais from an average of two hours to two days,” said Muna Haddad, Managing Director at Baraka.
“The benefit goes both ways,” she added, with travelers gaining an opportunity to interact with local Jordanians while contributing to the creation of much-needed jobs in the area.
So far, the project has impacted 38 families, who have taken up employment as guides, cooks and farmers on activities from hiking and cycling to bee-keeping and camping.
The project feeds into the 2017-2021 National Tourism Strategy, which outlines Jordan’s aims to attract more tourists to the country and increase the sector’s revenues while responding to the requirements of each governorate to drive growth at the local level.
Regional turmoil has hit Jordan’s tourism industry hard in recent years, but the industry is showing signs of recovery. Ministry of Tourism figures indicated a 10.5 percent increase in the first five months of 2017 compared to the same period last year.
With tourism revenues up 14.5 percent in the first half of 2017, buoyed by new growth markets, including North America and Europe, Jordan is positioning itself for a comeback, promoting lesser-known sights alongside the headline attractions.
In particular, the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) is developing a new adventure tourism strategy to promote the country as a destination for climbing, hiking, diving, canyoneering and other outdoor pursuits.
“We’re trying to break the stereotype that equates Jordan with Bedouin tribes, Petra and deserts,” said Hakim Ahmad Al-Tamimi, head of the Adventure Tourism Department at JTB. The focus now, he said, is on “mountains, greenery and waterfalls.”
The department is also publicizing existing action-adventure events, such as the annual Dead to Red race, a 242-kilometer relay running from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea in Aqaba, and the Full Moon Marathon in Wadi Rum, one of Jordan’s most spectacular landscapes,
A grant has also been given to the Jordan Trail Association (JTA) to market a new 400-mile hiking route that runs from the top of the country to the bottom.
“It’s a great way to experience the real Jordan,” said Bashir Daoud, General Manager at the Jordan Trail Association. The route passes through 52 local villages and organisers are working to engage communities with homestays and cooking experiences among other tourism-related enterprises.
“This is the other side of tourism that you don’t get to see. Visitors can go in and interact directly with locals, meet Bedouin people and see a different way of life,” Daoud added.
JTA is also working with The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) in Jordan to pass through a greater number of national parks and “show tourists more of Jordan’s best side.”
To illustrate the scope of Jordan’s unsung attractions, JTB recently launched a series of promotional videos that take viewers on hikes through deep desert canyons, abseiling down 100-foot waterfalls, climbing to the summits of Wadi Rum peaks and winding along the forest trails of verdant Ajloun in the north.
The campaign taps into a broader global trend towards adventure tourism, with Middle East countries like Jordan poised to take advantage of people’s desire to head off the beaten track in lesser-known locations.
“The demand for experiential and meaningful travel is growing, and Jordan is at the forefront of this movement,” said Haddad.


Airbus warns could leave Britain if no Brexit deal

Updated 22 June 2018
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Airbus warns could leave Britain if no Brexit deal

  • Industry analysts say Airbus would be unlikely to pull out of the UK abruptly because of long lead times and waiting lists for its planes
  • Airbus, which makes wings for all its passenger jets in the UK, said that leaving both the EU’s single market and customs union immediately

PARIS: European aviation giant Airbus warned Thursday it could be forced to pull out of the UK if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal.
In a Brexit risk assessment, Airbus said Britain withdrawing from the EU without a deal “would lead to severe disruption and interruption of UK production.”
“This scenario would force Airbus to reconsider its investments in the UK, and its long-term footprint in the country, severely undermining UK efforts to keep a competitive and innovative aerospace industry, developing high value jobs and competences,” it warned.
“Put simply, a no deal scenario directly threatens Airbus’ future in the UK,” Tom Williams, chief operating officer of Airbus Commercial Aircraft, said in a statement.
In its risk assessment, Airbus said under a “no deal” scenario, delays and disruptions to its production could cost it up to one billion euros ($1.2 billion) a week in lost turnover.
It said a no-deal Brexit “would be catastrophic” for the aviation group.
Airbus employs 14,000 people at more than 25 sites in Britain, where it manufactures the wings of its aircraft.
“In any scenario, Brexit has severe negative consequences for the UK aerospace industry and Airbus in particular,” Williams said.
“While Airbus understands that the political process must go on, as a responsible business we require immediate details on the pragmatic steps that should be taken to operate competitively,” he said.
“Without these, Airbus believes that the impacts on our UK operations could be significant. We have sought to highlight our concerns over the past 12 months, without success.”
On the future trade relationship between Britain and the EU, Airbus said the current transition period, which runs until December 2020, “is too short for the EU and UK Governments to agree the outstanding issues, and too short for Airbus to implement the required changes with its extensive supply chain.”
“In this scenario, Airbus would carefully monitor any new investments in the UK and refrain from extending the UK suppliers/partners base.”
Britain is due to leave the European Union in March 2019 but continue the current trading arrangements during the transition phase to December 2020 to give time for the two sides to agree the terms of a new partnership.