Jordan, a place at the crossroads of civilizations, is blessed with countless sites where tourists, locals as well as foreign, can get steeped in history, relax, look after their health or simply admire the wonders of nature. From Umm Qais and Ajloun in the north, to the Dead Sea, Wadi Rum, Petra and Aqaba, in the south, tourists may delight in man-made vestiges or nature’s creations and take a break from the mundane.
Yet, despite the many beautiful and rare sites Jordan has to offer, many Jordanians often prefer to travel abroad for tourism, entertainment and recreation.
What are the reasons Jordanians rarely practice domestic tourism? And what role the civil society and the private sector should play to help promote domestic tourism? More importantly, how should local tourist sites be marketed and made affordable for Jordanian families?
Domestic tourism is an opportunity for citizens to get to know and explore their country’s archaeological and historical landmarks, learn about the history and lifestyle of one’s ancestors, about customs, traditions and heritage, and to enjoy and the beautiful landscape available.
Al Nahda Women Network, which operates under the umbrella of the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD), held a meeting on June 14th tackling the issue of domestic tourism and the role of society in supporting this sector, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The event was part of a series of “Al Arba’tain” meetings organized by Al Nahda Women Network. Participating were members of the network and specialists in several related fields.
Participants said that domestic tourism is not part of the lifestyle of most Jordanians, and that going out for a picnic or to a tourist site requires time, effort and money, which may be why Jordanians prefer to stay at home and rest, rather than hike and explore.
The importance of domestic tourism has been made amply clear by the Covid-19 pandemic, which imposed border closures and impeded travel. This prompted the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to cooperate with the Tourism Promotion Authority to launch the national program “Our Jordan is a Paradise” for Jordanian citizens, thus hoping to generate more income.
The participants in the meeting agreed that getting families involved in tourism programs lends support to and stimulates the small-scale economy, but, at the same time, they stressed the need for the local products to be of high quality, and for the marketing and packaging processes to be done in new and innovative ways. This, they also agreed, is one of the challenges facing Jordanian local products, which often lack originality or creativity.
Sharing their pioneering experience in the field of tourism, sisters, Sahar and Doaa Al-Barqawi, members of the Al Nahda Women’s Network, talked about the “Sawah” application, which provides a platform for booking tourist trips in Jordan and exploring tourist areas, in addition to enabling users to write reviews and opinions about their trips. Through “Sawah”, users may explore the tourist areas in Jordan, search for available trips and tourist experiences, get connected with local tourism services providers, as well as book and pay electronically, through the application, which is available in both Arabic and English languages, according to the sisters.
Such successful pioneering experiences in domestic tourism are important for Jordan, which teems with historical, archaeological, religious and therapeutic sites that need to be promoted and marketed in innovative ways.
Participants in the meeting recommended taking advantage of the current, exceptional, circumstances in an unconventional way to help activate domestic tourism indicated. They believe that this will only be achieved by modernizing and developing the infrastructure that leads to tourist areas, work to improve the quality of services provided to citizens and put a price cap on tourism-related services, such as transportation, and food and beverages on sale at tourist points, taking into account the average Jordanian per capita income. This may encourage Jordanians to practice domestic tourism.
At the same time, participants in the meeting stressed the need to increase society’s awareness about tourist and archaeological sites, and the importance of domestic tourism in learning about customs, traditions and heritage, especially knowing that tourism helps move the wheels of the economy.
The “Arba’tain” meetings are held biweekly by the Al Nahda Women’s Network. They host experts in different fields who tackle the most important issues in the local and international arenas.