Jordan tourism expected to boom by 2023, tourism officials say

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The tourism sector in Jordan has gradually started to signs of a positive trend after a near collapse. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
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At the start of July the government lifted most lockdown measures after a sharp drop in infections. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
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The European Union included Jordan among a dozen new epidemiologically safe countries as of July 1. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
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King Abdullah II directed the government to work intensively, through its ambassadors, to depict Jordan as a ‘green’ country for traveling. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
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Jordan began with opening up to domestic tourism, then to neighboring Gulf countries, and then to international tourism. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)
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Updated 08 August 2021

Jordan tourism expected to boom by 2023, tourism officials say

  • Regional tourism has started picking up and international tourists are expected to return in August, September and October
  • King Abdullah II directed the government to work intensively, through its ambassadors, to depict Jordan as a ‘green’ country for traveling

AMMAN/LONDON: The tourism sector in Jordan has gradually started to show signs of a positive trend after a near collapse due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, tourism officials said.
The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) began opening up to domestic tourism, and then to Gulf and neighboring countries, in order to facilitate border movement, Dr. Abed Al-Razzaq Arabiyat, the managing director of the JTB told Arab News.
“We expect the return of international tourism during August, September and October after overcoming several obstacles,” Arabiyat added.
Jordan stood out for its low COVID-19 rates at the start of the pandemic but then saw an exponential rise in confirmed cases, and by November recorded the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths per capita in the Middle East. Authorities declared a state of emergency and imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, hitting the tourism sector hard.
Jordan has since managed to flatten the epidemiological curve, has moved from a UK “red list” country to an “amber” one, and in February significantly accelerated its inoculation campaign.

 


“Societal immunity is high and our epidemiological situation gives positive indications that a complete breakthrough for tourism in the kingdom is near,” Arabiyat said, adding that Jordan has eased more restrictions compared to many other countries, which will play a major role in attracting tourists.
He said King Abdullah II directed the government to work intensively, through its ambassadors, to depict Jordan as a green country, and that it is “clearly moving in that direction.” Marketing campaigns are in place and tourism offices are ready to cooperate, as some countries have already moved the kingdom to their “green” lists. Jordanian hotels and resorts have also begun receiving international bookings from September to November.




The tourism sector in Jordan has gradually started to signs of a positive trend after a near collapse. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

Minister of Transport Wajih Azayza said that Queen Alia International Airport received 9 million passengers in 2019, and hopes to return to these numbers after the pandemic.
The airport said on July 17 it welcomed over 1.2 million passengers during the first half of the year, with the highest number recorded in June with more than 389,000 passengers. The airport’s total economic contribution exceeded $3.53 billion (about 8.9 percent of GDP).

The government has also implemented subsidization programs and launched a tourism risk fund valued at $28.2 million to support the sector and alleviate damages. In 2019, Jordan received a record 3 million visitors, bringing in $5.78 billion, which fell to $1.41 billion in 2020.




The coronavirus pandemic has been a disaster for Jordan’s tourism industry, which suffered its worst contraction in decades last year. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

Last month, the king called for unified efforts to help the tourism and travel sector recover, which accounts for about 20 percent of GDP, and promote tourism to the “Golden Triangle” of Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba.
Arabiyat said that Petra, one of the seven wonders of the world, was most affected due to its high dependence on international tourism, but expects to “hear positive news by September, as there is a demand for the ‘Golden Triangle.’”
From July 1, authorities implemented the second phase of Jordan’s strategy to return to normal life, with tourist facilities permitted to reopen at full capacity. The curfew in the areas of the “Golden Triangle” in the south were lifted, and fully vaccinated visitors may enter as they have been declared COVID-free zones. Phase 3 will begin on Sept. 1, provided that cases remain low and the government reaches its immunization target.




Jordan has greatly eased restrictions compared to many countries, which will play a major role in attracting inbound tourism. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

Arabiyat said JTB has also launched the “Breathe” summer marketing campaign to target tourists, particularly families, from Gulf countries.
He said after enduring two exhausting years of the pandemic, “returning to life as we knew it became a dream that everyone was yearning to live once more; yearning to travel and enjoy life, yearning to feel alive again, hence the name of our campaign ‘Breathe’… where people can enjoy life and just breathe.”
Fawzi Al-Hammouri, chairman of Jordan’s Private Hospitals Association, said there had been a remarkable increase in the number of patients arriving for treatment in Jordan in June, specifically from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, after witnessing a decrease during the past year.
Arabiyat said, however, the greatest concern was preserving employment within the tourism sector.




Jordan is taking several steps to get the number of foreign tourists back to the record 3 million visitors in 2019. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

Layali Nashashibi, director of communications and public relations at Movenpick Hotels and Resorts, said they did not let go of any staff throughout the pandemic, even though they had to close both hotels in Petra and one in Aqaba, while the hotel in the Dead Sea was taken over by the government and used for quarantining when it started to bring Jordanians home from abroad.
“Aqaba, at the beginning, it was clean from COVID-19, but Aqaba has tourism and the port. So, if both closed, then the economy will suffer, so they decided that Aqaba would remain open from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m.,” Nashashibi told Arab News.
“I had to interfere with the government to extend some hours of the (hotels and) restaurants, as well as to have more facilities open,” she said, adding that after speaking with the prime minister, they managed to extend opening hours until 10 p.m. across the whole kingdom.




Government efforts to revive the tourism sector appear to be paying off but officials expect two years of recovery. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

“Now we are depending on international tourism to come back to Jordan … We are optimistic and we have been promised by the government, the Ministry of Tourism, and Jordan Tourism Board that Ryanair and EasyJet will resume flights (to Aqaba) by October,” she added. EasyJet has started taking bookings for Aqaba from November, while cruise ships have also began to trickle in with one from Jeddah expected to arrive in Aqaba at the beginning of August.
Nashashibi said they also hosted familiarization trips for tour operators. Authorities are offering different types of tax reductions and discounts on landing fees, and tourists from Eastern Europe started coming to Aqaba from the end of June, with planes from Russia expected to increase in the coming period.
The city is regulated by the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority, which has turned it into a low-tax, duty-free city, attracting several mega investment projects like Ayla Oasis, Saraya Aqaba, Marsa Zayed and the expansion of the port, all of which were greatly affected.




Officials announced special measures for Jordan’s ‘Golden Triangle’, which includes Petra, Wadi Rum and Aqaba, and fully vaccinated visitors may enter as they have been declared COVID-free zones. (AN photo/Sarah Glubb)

“Hopefully, COVID-19 will disappear and we return like before or better than before,” Nashashibi said, adding that she does not see tourism improving until the third quarter of 2022, and expects a boom in the tourism and economic sectors to start by 2023.
Sally Abu Hijleh, from Montana Travel and Tourism agency, also said it will take about a year for tourism to return, adding that they are working on offers and discounted prices to encourage travel.
For Marwan Eid Abo Al-Adas, owner of souvenir shop Bazaar Al-Wadeeh in Jarash, even if tourists return this summer, all the tourism sectors have suffered such heavy losses that, he believes, they will still struggle.“The compensation will be greater after two or three years (as) there must be continuity in the tourism sector,” he said.
Marwan Soudi, a Jordanian living abroad, who was not able to return home last year, said: “The way they are handling the pandemic here in Jordan, and the way they rolled out vaccines really fast, the authorities are saying that the tourism and just everything being back to normal by 2022-2023, I would say that sounds like a reasonable aim.”

 


Saudi tourist Abdul Aziz Al-Shalawi said due to Jordan having one of the lowest rates of infections, tourists from Saudi Arabia prefer to visit this summer more than any other country, especially Europe, as its “safety is excellent.”
He said Jordan was beautiful and diverse and that Saudis were also attracted to the kingdom for its medical options. “Jordan has potential and very good doctors and is focused on attracting tourists for treatment, whilst also enjoying their time,” he added.
American tourist Tom Langdon said he hoped tourism would open up more from July to help the Bedouins in Petra, and the people that rely on tourism.
“It’s pretty unfortunate. I went to Petra, and I think there was like maybe 20 people there, and one of the vendors showed me a video, and it looked like a rock concert, it looked like you could barely move without touching someone and he said that that’s how it used to be before COVID-19,” Langdon said.
“I think (Jordan) is an untapped source, I think it’s unfortunate that a lot of this isn’t known to more people. Pretty much every place that I’ve been here in Jordan has been absolutely beautiful (and) I’ve been having a pretty good time.”


Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment

Updated 17 sec ago

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment

  • Iran’s chief prosecutor Mohamed Jafar Montazeri earlier said the morality police ‘had been closed’
CAIRO: An Iranian lawmaker said Sunday that Iran’s government is “paying attention to the people’s real demands,” state media reported, a day after a top official suggested that the country’s morality police whose conduct helped trigger months of protests has been shut down.
The role of the morality police, which enforces veiling laws, came under scrutiny after a detainee, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, died in its custody in mid-September. Amini had been held for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress codes. Her death unleashed a wave of unrest that has grown into calls for the downfall of Iran’s clerical rulers.
Iran’s chief prosecutor Mohamed Jafar Montazeri said on Saturday the morality police “had been closed,” the semi-official news agency ISNA reported. The agency did not provide details, and state media hasn’t reported such a purported decision.
In a report carried by ISNA on Sunday, lawmaker Nezamoddin Mousavi signaled a less confrontational approach toward the protests.
“Both the administration and parliament insisted that paying attention to the people’s demand that is mainly economic is the best way for achieving stability and confronting the riots,” he said, following a closed meeting with several senior Iranian officials, including President Ebrahim Raisi.
Mousavi did not address the reported closure of the morality police.
The Associated Press has been unable to confirm the current status of the force, established in 2005 with the task of arresting people who violate the country’s Islamic dress code.
Since September, there has been a reported decline in the number of morality police officers across Iranian cities and an increase in women walking in public without headscarves, contrary to Iranian law.
Montazeri, the chief prosecutor, provided no further details about the future of the morality police or if its closure was nationwide and permanent. However he added that Iran’s judiciary will ‘‘continue to monitor behavior at the community level.’’
In a report by ISNA on Friday, Montazeri was quoted as saying that the government was reviewing the mandatory hijab law. “We are working fast on the issue of hijab and we are doing our best to come up with a thoughtful solution to deal with this phenomenon that hurts everyone’s heart,” said Montazeri, without offering details.
Saturday’s announcement could signal an attempt to appease the public and find a way to end the protests in which, according to rights groups, at least 470 people were killed. More than 18,000 people have been arrested in the protests and the violent security force crackdown that followed, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the demonstrations.
Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, said Montazeri’s statement about closing the morality police could be an attempt to pacify domestic unrest without making real concessions to protesters.
‘‘The secular middle class loathes the organization (morality police) for restricting personal freedoms,” said Alfoneh. On the other hand, the “underprivileged and socially conservative class resents how they conveniently keep away from enforcing the hijab legislation” in wealthier areas of Iran’s cities.
When asked about Montazeri’s statement, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian gave no direct answer. ‘‘Be sure that in Iran, within the framework of democracy and freedom, which very clearly exists in Iran, everything is going very well,’’ Amirabdollahian said, speaking during a visit to Belgrade, Serbia.
The anti-government demonstrations, now in their third month, have shown no sign of stopping despite a violent crackdown. Protesters say they are fed up after decades of social and political repression, including a strict dress code imposed on women. Young women continue to play a leading role in the protests, stripping off the mandatory Islamic headscarf to express their rejection of clerical rule.
After the outbreak of the protests, the Iranian government hadn’t appeared willing to heed the protesters’ demands. It has continued to crack down on protesters, including sentencing at least seven arrested protesters to death. Authorities continue to blame the unrest on hostile foreign powers, without providing evidence.
But in recent days, Iranian state media platforms seemed to be adopting a more conciliatory tone, expressing a desire to engage with the problems of the Iranian people.

Iranian city shops shut to step up pressure on clerical rulers

Updated 10 min 14 sec ago

Iranian city shops shut to step up pressure on clerical rulers

  • 1500tasvir Twitter account shared videos of shut stores in key commercial areas like Tehran’s Bazaar

DUBAI: Iranian shops shut their doors in several cities on Monday, following calls for a three-day nationwide general strike from protesters seeking the fall of clerical rulers.
Iran has been rocked by nationwide unrest following the death of Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16 in the custody of the morality police, posing one of the strongest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.
1500tasvir, a Twitter account with 380,000 followers focused on the protests, shared videos of shut stores in key commercial areas, such as Tehran’s Bazaar, and other large cities such as Karaj, Isfahan, and Shiraz.
Witnesses speaking to Reuters said riot police and the Basij militia had been heavily deployed in central Tehran.
The semi-official Fars news agency confirmed that a jewelry shop belonging to former Iranian football legend Ali Daei was sealed by authorities, following its decision to close down for the three days of the general strike.
Similar footage by 1500tasvir and other activist accounts was shared of closed shops in smaller cities like Bojnourd, Kerman, Sabzevar, Ilam, Ardabil.
Kurdish Iranian rights group Hengaw also reported that 19 cities had joined the general strike movement in western Iran, where most of the country’s Kurdish population live.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the unrest since the death of Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was detained by the morality police for flouting hijab rules.


‘Farha’: Palestinians reject Israeli backlash against Nakba film

Updated 05 December 2022

‘Farha’: Palestinians reject Israeli backlash against Nakba film

  • Netflix release, directed by Jordan’s Darin J. Sallam, tells 1948 story of a girl in a village overrun by Israeli militias
  • Jordan chose ‘Farha’ to represent it in the Oscar for Best Foreign Film award during next edition of the premiere film event

RAMALLAH: Palestinians are defending the newly released movie “Farha” following an Israeli backlash against the film’s depiction of events in 1948.

As Netflix faces criticism for airing the film, activists advocating the Palestinian cause are taking the initiative to support its release.

The Jordanian film depicts the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, known as the Nakba.

Screening of the film has caused widespread Israeli anger with threats to cancel Netflix subscriptions.

Israeli ministers and officials have accused the film’s creators of promoting a false narrative and inciting violence against Israeli soldiers.

The movie, directed by Darin J. Sallam, a Jordanian woman of Palestinian origin, tells the story of a 14-year-old Palestinian girl who witnesses the murder of her entire family, including an infant, when Israeli militias overrun her village and execute civilians during the Nakba. The girl dreams of moving from her Palestinian village to the city to continue her education.

The village’s exposure to the invasion prompts the girl’s father to hide her in a small room, and her life changes dramatically in a matter of days.

The film, inspired by real events, was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2021.

Jordan chose “Farha” to represent it in the Oscar for Best Foreign Film award during the next edition of the world’s premiere film event.

The film was launched on Netflix on Dec. 1.

Israeli officials claim that Farha “presents a false narrative” about the Nakba, in which 760,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homelands.

Prominent Palestinian poet and writer Mutwakel Taha told Arab News that the reason for the Israeli anger was because the country’s actions in the Nakba had been exposed to the world through the film.

“They want to monopolize the victim image alone. So their madness is because the Palestinians appear as victims of the Israelis,” Taha told Arab News.

Taha said that Palestinians are betting on cultural solutions after the failure of efforts to reach a political settlement with Israel.

A Palestinian narrative of events during the Nakba frightens Israeli, said Taha.

Palestinian writer Tahsin Yaqeen agreed.

Yaqeen told Arab News that Israel considers every artistic or literary work from the side of Palestine as an attack, adding that Israel’s narrative had been challenged and undermined through the work of Israeli historians such as Ilan Pappe.

Shlomo Sand, another prominent historian who has questioned Israel’s actions, has also challenged prominent narratives, Yaqeen said, adding: “We do not need as Palestinians to explain what happened in 1948 and before and after that, because the world knows very well what happened.”

Israelis should view “Farha” and listen to the stories of Palestinians, even if they do not agree, said Yaqeen.

The writer asked: “If the Israelis are not believing what is narrated by the ‘Farha’ film, would they not ask themselves today, what is their government and army doing in the West Bank?”

Yaqeen said that the Israeli reaction to the film was based on “a national rejection because it violated the Israeli narrative.

“It is not artistic criticism of the film’s narrative.”

Sireen Jabarin, an Israeli-Arab activist from Umm Al-Fahm, told Arab News: “Israeli authorities limiting freedom of art is not new, but, interestingly, the Israeli policies in this direction are tending toward racism and extremism and not accepting the narration of the other party, and even rejecting any action that explains the truth to the Palestinians about what happened decades ago.”

An Israeli intellectual who opposes the release of “Farha” told Arab News: “Netflix is a global network and has many subscribers in Israel. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Israeli subscribers have canceled their subscriptions to Netflix during the past few days in protest of its marketing of the Jordanian film ‘Farha,’ which lacks balance and objectivity, and neglects to mention the Israeli point of view.”

Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman denounced the release of the film.

Lieberman said: “It is insane that Netflix decided to broadcast a film whose sole purpose is to present a false claim and incite against Israeli soldiers.”

Lieberman added: “We will not allow the reputation of Israeli army soldiers to be tarnished.”

The minister said that he had directed the leadership at the Ministry of Finance to take measures to withdraw the budget of the Jaffa Theater, which chose to screen the film.

Israeli Culture Minister Hili Tropper said that the screening of the film in Israeli cinemas was a “shame,” adding that “Farha” promotes “lies and slander.”

Darin J. Sallam and producers Dima Azar and Aya Jardaneh condemned criticism of the film.

They criticized a social media campaign targeting the film’s rating on IMDb, attempts to stop the screening of the film at Jaffa Theater and threats to cancel Netflix subscriptions.

They also condemned hate messages, harassment, accusations and bullying on social media.

The trio said that they would not tolerate any harmful threats against any member of the “Farha” team.

“These attempts to silence Arab women and filmmakers is a stripping of humanity and freedom of expression,” they said.

“The film’s existence is a reality, and our existence is a reality. We have been robbed of a lot, but our voices will not be taken away.”

Azar and Jardaneh stressed their support for Sallam’s decision to “tell this human and personal story, and share it with the world, and to realize this creative vision cinematically without any restrictions.”


Man killed during Israeli raid in West Bank – Palestinian health officials

Updated 05 December 2022

Man killed during Israeli raid in West Bank – Palestinian health officials

  • It was the latest death in a recent surge of violence in the territory
  • Israeli military has been conducting daily raids throughout the West Bank since the spring

JERUSALEM: Palestinian health officials said a Palestinian man was killed by Israeli fire during a military raid in the occupied West Bank on Monday.
It was the latest death in a recent surge of violence in the territory. The Israeli military has been conducting daily raids throughout the West Bank since the spring.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa said that soldiers entered the Deheishe refugee camp near the city of Bethlehem early on Monday, sparking clashes with a group of local residents. The soldiers then fired tear gas and opened fire at the crowd, it said.
The agency said Omar Manaa, 22, was killed, while six other Palestinians were wounded. Four people were arrested.
There was no immediate Israeli comment.
Rising Israeli-Palestinian tensions have made 2022 the deadliest year in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the long-running conflict since 2006. Further escalation appears likely, as the most right-wing and religious government in Israel’s history is poised to be installed in the coming weeks, with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returning to power.
More than 140 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli-Palestinian fighting this year. The Israeli army says most of the Palestinians killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting Israeli army incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed.
Monday’s deadly shooting came against the backdrop of months of Israeli arrest raids in the West Bank, prompted by a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the spring that killed 19 people. The military says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks, but the Palestinians say they entrench Israel’s open-ended occupation, now in its 56th year. A recent wave of Palestinian attacks against Israeli targets killed an additional nine people.

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Jailed Sudan ex-president Bashir transferred to hospital – lawyer

Updated 05 December 2022

Jailed Sudan ex-president Bashir transferred to hospital – lawyer

KHARTOUM: Former Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir has been moved from prison to hospital to complete some medical treatment, his lawyer Hashim Abu-Bakr said on Sunday.

The 78-year-old has been in custody while he is being tried over the 1989 coup that brought him to power. He was ousted in an uprising in 2019.

His lawyers had on Tuesday petitioned the court to transfer him to hospital, saying blood pressure and kidney issues posed a threat to his life if left untreated in prison.

Images of Bashir walking round a hospital ward caused controversy earlier this year.