Nestled up high in the hills above one of Jordan’s most famous archaeological sites, Petra, sits the Petra Marriott Hotel. Offering incredible views across the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the newly refurbished hotel represents a microcosm of Jordan’s growing investment in the luxury travel market.
“There is a very strong relationship with all of the parties involved in tourism initiatives across Jordan. We do trade shows [in collaboration with the government] and we combine strategies. At the end of the day we share the same vision and that is to boost the number of tourists to the country,” Zovinar Mananian, director of operators for the hotel tells Arabian Business.
This type of relationship is helping to shape Jordan’s local tourism industry. Home to some of the region’s best known attractions, including the Dead Sea, the River Jordan and the ancient ruins in Jerash, the country is ramping up its investment in its hospitality industry and luxury travellers from higher-income brackets seeking five-star resorts and cultured tourist attractions are the name of the game.
In addition to its $2m upgrade in Petra, Marriott International will open a 264-room JW Marriott Hotel Aqaba later this year while Starwood will open its first St Regis hotel in Amman in 2015 and a 280-room W Amman Hotel in late 2015.
But hotels are just one part of the story. Across the country, from Aqaba in the south to Amman in the north east, Jordan is ploughing investment into a sector that accounts for around 7.7 percent of its overall gross domestic product and employs almost 17 percent of its national workforce.
“The health of Jordan’s tourist sector is central to the economy’s overall well-being. It is the second largest employer, and, although difficult to measure precisely, we estimate that tourism constitutes some 9-10 percent of gross domestic product,” says Robert Powell, senior editor and economist for MENA at Economist Intelligence Unit.
Three years ago the Ministry of Tourism released its five-year strategic plan,which aims to boost the number of foreign tourists from 8.2 million to 9.4 million by 2015. Some of the biggest financial commitments include its $30m two-stage Jordan Tourism Development Project, which aims to promote the country as an international tourism hotspot by upgrading and preserving key archaeological sites such as Petra and promoting private sector investment.
A further $20m is being pumped into Aqaba, where a low tax, duty-free development area has boosted investment opportunities for a range of leisure attractions including golf courses and resorts. The city will also house the country’s first theme park, the $1bn Red Sea Astrarium resort, which will include a Paramount-produced Star Trek-themed attraction as well as a series of other attractions that will feature Jordan’s Nabataean, Babylonian, British and Roman influences.
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