Visit Jordan! News May 2010

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Jordan Tourism Booms in the First Quarter

The first quarter of 2010 heralded good news for Jordan’s tourism sector in what could be another landmark year. Statistics by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the by the Central Bank of Jordan have shown across-the-board increases in both visitor numbers as well as tourism receipts.
The Ministry of Tourism has said overnight tourist numbers have jumped 33.4% during the first quarter to 883,450 people from a total of 662,075 in the same period of 2009. Same day visitors were up 17.6% to 651,325 people from 553,929 in 2009. The Ministry said overall numbers in the first quarter totaled 1,534,802 visitors compared to 1,216,004 in the same period of 2009, and representing a jump of 26.2%.
With the exception of African visitors whose numbers have declined by 5%, all other regions have witnessed increasing numbers particularly from Europe. American visitors increased by 8.7%, Asia-Pacific nationals by 27%, South Asians by 29.4%, Arabs by 20.8%, and Europeans by 35.5%.
Figures by the Central Bank of Jordan have shown that tourism receipts in the first quarter went up by 39.7% to 503 million Jordanian Dinar ($701 million) from 360 million ($501 million) in the same period of 2009 – a increase of $200 million.
Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) Managing Director Nayef H. al-Fayez expressed great pleasure at the figures and said “they have given Jordan’s tourism industry a very good reason to keep smiling.” 
Mr. al-Fayez said “while we look forward to a landmark season, we are confident that interest in Jordan as a unique and diversified international destination is increasing across the world.” He added that JTB’s participation in recent exhibitions and road shows “has given us a distinctive look at the increased confidence visitors have in Jordan both as a country and as destination for a trip of a life-time.”
Jordan’s numerous touristic sites have reported increased visitor activity during 2010’s first quarter compared with the same period of 2009. Petra, the Kingdom’s jewel in the crown, saw an almost 50% increase in visitors. However, the biggest attraction was Mount Nebo with an 88% increase, followed by Madaba’s map with a 72% increase. Visitor numbers went up 32.5% in Jerash, 47.4% in Kerak, 41.2% in Ajloun, 45.1% in Um-Qais, 40.3% in Wadi Rum, and 24.3% in the Baptism Site.
Baptism Site officials have said that this is the biggest single increase in visitor numbers since the site was officially opened in 2002. They said April 2010 alone has seen more than 20,100 visitors and pilgrims indicating a growing appetite for the location, as well as for religious tourism as a main component of Jordan’s diverse tourism product.
Tourism officials have said a very good season in 2010 will mean that Jordan’s tourism industry is on track and in the right direction, particularly after avoiding impact of the global economic crisis which started in 2008.
Jordan has faired quite well in 2009 despite the difficult times witnessed by the global tourism industry, which included both the global financial crisis as well as the H1N1 virus pandemic. Tourism revenues remained almost unchanged at JD2.064 billion (around $3 billion) compared with 2.089 in 2008, while overnight visitor numbers increased by 1.6% in 2008.
Al-Fayez said for a small country like Jordan, maintaining 2008 figures was a great achievement. “Now we can focus on making 2010 another exceptional year,” he concluded.

Petra visitor numbers up 50%


Jordan’s Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority (PDTRA) has said that the numbers of tourists visiting Petra had witnessed a “progressive increase” over the past three months, rising by 50% in the first quarter of 2010, Jordan Times has reported. The numbers of foreign tourists increased by 53%, while Jordanian visitors rose by 23%, PDTRA chief commissioner, Nasser Shraideh said. From January through March, around 210,000 local residents and foreigners visited the city, up from 140,000 during the same period in 2009, he said.

Queen Rania’s US Press Tour
On Friday, April 21 Her Majesty Queen Rania was the premiere guest on Oprah Winfrey’s OPRAH LIVE show. Her Majesty spoke on her life as Queen of Jordan, especially her love and appreciation of the vast diversity of beauty in her land. Touted by Oprah as a modern monarch, the Queen also talked about being in touch with the community via social media networks like Facebook & Twitter, where she has over 1 .5 million followers!
Queen Rania also shared images of a recent trip to Jordan made by such celebrities as Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban & Hugh Jackman where they are enjoying the wonders of Petra, the Dead Sea, Wadi Rum & Aqaba. To see the slide show please visit:
Queen Rania then spoke with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, followed by an appearance on The View to discuss her new children’s book, “The Sandwich Swap”. The Sandwich Swap is meant to teach children not fear diversity and to appreciate other cultures.

The Wild Side of Jordan guideFollow Peter Potterfield, editor,

on his epic- 50 mile backcountry

 journey through the

mountains of Jordan!

“One of the most interesting routes in the Middle East, the hike starts from Jordan’s wild Dana Reserve and follows a rugged wilderness to the country’s crown jewel-Petra. This is a journey made entirely on foot, day by day, hour by hour, staying in traditional Bedouin camps, savoring the Jordan countryside at a walking pace, having the time to appreciate this unique landscape.”

Potterfield will make the trek with noted Jordanian backcountry traveler and guide Yamaan Safady, and the pair will be accompanied by Jordan Tourism Board videographer Catherine Porterfield. The expedition is sponsored jointly by ExOfficio,  the premiere clothing company for outdoor & travel enthusiasts & Wildland Adventures, a U.S. Tour Operator who creates authentic worldwide explorations for active and inquisitive travelers.

The hike is currently underway and the full story will appear in early summer.

To read Peter’s preview piece please visit:

Bethany Beyond the Jordan Reclaims Spot on Holy Land Pilgrim Map
Jordan attracts 24% more U.S. visitors to Baptism Site in First Quarter 2010; Tour Companies Say Numbers Mark Turning Point in Faith-Based Travel to Jordan

The rustic, eco-protected  settlement on the eastern banks of the Jordan River known as “Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan” – where the Bible says Jesus came to be baptized by his cousin John – is fast becoming a must-see destination for faith-based travelers and general tourists alike to the Holy Land. In 2010, 24% more American tourists visited the baptism site during January-March than during the same period last year, and travel suppliers are reporting increased interest and demand for the site from Christian travel planners and consumers.
“We have worked hand in hand with our suppliers to promote this unique location and educate religious travel planners about how to build it into all of their Holy Land travel programs,” said Malia Asfour, director of the Jordan Tourism Board North America. “Now that the site is fully open and travelers have easy access, it is only natural that this authentic location is once again returning to its place of prominence on the Holy Land map.”
Asfour views faith-based travel as one of the primary niches for Jordan tourism. She has been working since 1997 to promote the destination of Jordan to the North American travel market, and decided early on that Jordan needed a re-branding in the religious sector in order to educate and re-introduce the kingdom’s biblical sites and experiences to prospective travelers. With Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan at number one on the list of must-see biblical locations in Jordan, the rising tide of visitors to the site should lift faith-based travel to other parts of Jordan.
“It’s a case of what was old is new again,” said Christine Moore, founder of Epiphany Media, who has spent a decade representing the Jordan Tourism Board to the religious community in North America. “More Americans are simply returning to the original pilgrim route taken by the early Christians, who would visit the place of baptism between their journeys to Mount Nebo and Jerusalem.  Today, faith-based travelers can have the same authentic experience that the original pilgrims had, and also enjoy adventures and experiences at Petra, Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea and so many other locations in Jordan.”
The authenticity, simplicity and eco-protected nature of the site means it is here to stay on the pilgrim map. And more and more faith-based travel suppliers are recognizing that the practice of taking Christian groups to other locations on the Jordan River does not hold the same meaning for their clients as visiting the special area where John the Baptist lived, preached and baptized his cousin.
Nick Mancino, president of Group IST, who operates Regina Tours for the Catholic market and Journeys Unlimited for the Protestant market, said he has experienced increased demand across the board for the Baptism Site. And Rick Ricart, president of Imagine Tours & Travel, whose father promoted Jordan as a religious travel destination as far back as the 1970’s, said he has had one of his busiest seasons ever for travel to Jordan. Ricart said the baptism site is becoming more popular among his clients, as word has spread about its excavations and accessibility.
“I used to feel like a voice crying out in the wilderness myself when trying to promote the baptism site or other holy places in Jordan,” said Ricart. “But we have prepared the way, and now more travel leaders are aware of the opportunities in Jordan, and want to give their groups a chance to experience Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan and other special places, as well as sample some of that famous Jordanian hospitality.”
Additional Information:
Church/Visitor Facilities
An area of 350,000 square miles of land has been set aside for the pilgrim village just outside the baptism site reserve, which has strict environmental protection bylaws. 

Many Christian denominations have begun building new churches and facilities/guest houses nearby in a “pilgrim village” to facilitate modern pilgrims to what has been called the “Birthplace of Christianity.” Churches and facilities in existence or in the works include these traditions: Greek Orthodox; Anglican; Baptist; Catholic; Coptic and Russian Orthodox.

In March, 2009, Baptist World Alliance (BWA) officials, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammed of Jordan joined officials from around the world to dedicate a new Baptism Center. “I think believers from many parts of the world who want to make a pilgrimage to the area where Jesus was baptized will certainly want to make their own pilgrimage here,” said BWA President David Coffey.

In May, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI blessed the cornerstones of two new Catholic churches being built with these words: “Let us rejoice in the knowledge that the two buildings, one Latin, the other Greek Melkite, will serve to build up, each according to the traditions of its own community, the one family of God.”

Rupert Murdoch’s youngest daughters were baptized at Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan in March, 2010, but you don’t have to be famous to hold a ceremony at the baptism site – park officials welcome all church groups and other visitors interested in holding special ceremonies, such as baptisms or communion, and these are easily arranged through tour operators.

Park Oversight and Planning
The Baptism Site is a legally protected National Jordanian Park run by an independent board of trustees – the Baptism Site Commission – appointed personally by H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan, who considers its maintenance an honor and a sacred trust for future generations of Jordanians and Christian pilgrims from all over the world. For more information, please visit

While several hundred thousand people visit the park each year, Baptism Site Commission officials expect to receive more than a million visitors a year once all churches and guest facilities are complete.

The baptism site is close to Amman and the Dead Sea resort and hotel area, which is served by several 4- and 5-star hotels. Planning is underway to build 3-star hotels on the northeastern shores of the Dead Sea.

Biblical Background:
Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan is part of the wilderness area associated with John the Baptist and also contains the traditional spot where the Bible says Elijah the prophet ascended to heaven in a chariot of fire.

While Jordan is home to hundreds of biblical locations, some of the most pivotal biblical events occurred at these sites:

Mount Nebo, where Moses saw the land he would never enter and, according to the Bible, is buried nearby in an unknown location; Mukawir, a mountaintop fortress not far from the Dead Sea where John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded; Tel Mar Elias, the birthplace of the prophet Elijah (also known as Elijah the Tishbite), located among the ancient Hills of Gilead;Umm Qais, a Roman provincial town overlooking the Sea of Galilee where the miracle of the Gadarene swine took place; Jabbok River, where Jacob wrested with “the Angel,” and his name was changed to Israel, meaning “He who wrestles with God.”