Tourism drops in history-rich Jordan amid Middle Eastern conflicts

Tourism has dropped as much as 15% this year in the Middle Eastern country of Jordan, home to famous sites such as the ancient city of Petra, amid ongoing conflicts in neighbouring countries.

The Petra Treasury in Jordan is one of the country's top tourist destination, but the number of visitors is dwindling as conflicts continue in the Middle East.

The Petra Treasury in Jordan is one of the country's top tourist destination, but the number of visitors is dwindling as conflicts continue in the Middle East. Image by Colin Tsoi / CC BY 2.0

Despite the beautiful landscapes and historic sites the country boasts, according to statistics from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MOTA) in Jordan, the total number of tourists dropped almost 10% in the first three months of 2015 over 2014. Between April and June, the number of visitors dropped 20% compared to the previous year, leaving the country facing a roughly 15% so far in 2015.

Jordan, which shares borders with Israel, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, is faced with a dwindling number of visitors as Western countries warn travellers about safety concerns in the Middle East.

The number of monthly visitors to Petra, the ancient Nabataean city carved into stone, has dropped compared to last year, according to the MOTA statistics. In the first six months of 2015, visitors to Petra dropped by almost 36% compared to last year. While the number of Jordanian visitors only dropped about 10%, foreign visitors were down by 42%.

In the city of Jerash near the Syrian border, another popular attraction, tourism has seen a similar drop; Jordanian visitors dropped 11% while foreign visits were down 43%.

Ancient Jerash in Jordan is a popular tourist site.

Ancient Jerash in Jordan is a popular tourist site. Image by cat_collector / CC BY 2.0

The UK government’s travel website has no official warning against travel to Jordan, but advises against all but essential travel within three kilometres of the Syrian border. The site notes that about 73,500 British nationals visited Jordan in 2014 and most visits proceed without trouble. However, people are advised to avoid large crowds and political gatherings.

While there is no official travel warning or alert, the US State Department’s website, updated in December 2014, states that “the threat of terrorism remains high in Jordan”, and advises travellers to be aware “that violent extremist groups have carries out terrorist activities against U.S. and Government of Jordan (GOJ) targets in Jordan.”

All of Jordan’s neighbouring countries face US travel warnings.

In an effort to boost tourism, the country has launched a visitor pass to help travellers save time and money, but issues have abounded as foreigners try to take advantage of the deal, according to the Telegraph.

Wadi Rum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is another attractive place for visitors to Jordan.

Wadi Rum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is another attractive place for visitors to Jordan. Image by Dennis Jarvis / CC BY 2.0

The Jordan Pass launched in September, and was set to include the visa price to the country and admission to the some of the biggest tourist attractions in order to provide a discount to those who pick up the pass.

The website boasts “hassle-free” entry to over 40 tourist attractions, but the Telegraph reports that hassle is exactly what some travellers found, as authorities at some of the sites were not prepared to scan the tickets. A couple of visitors faced a delay as immigration officials took their time to examine the Jordan Pass e-tickets, which also covers the visa fee, according to the Telegraph.

But, many travellers are still visiting the country and sharing their love, and their photographs, online. The Jordan Tourism Board has created a contest on Instagram encouraging social media users to share photos from the country and tag them with #shareyourjordan for the potential to win two tickets to travel the country.

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