Five Questions with Malia Asfour, Director, Jordan Tourism Board, North America
1. What’s the state of Jordan’s tourism industry right now?
The tourism industry in Jordan is at a standstill at the moment. The Tourism Board along with the Hotel Association and the Ministry of Tourism are working on hygiene and social distancing protocols and standards for the industry in Jordan. Once these standards are put in place, then we will begin opening up slowly. At the moment, the airports are closed as are the boarders with very few exceptions. Jordan has done incredibly well in flattening the curve, the country is starting to open up slowly and the leadership has been extremely transparent and strict about safety for all citizens.
2. How quickly do you think Jordanian tourism will rebound once the coronavirus pandemic ends?
The Jordanian DMC’s and hotels will be ready to receive travellers once it is deemed to be safe for travelers to visit the country. We will not compromise the health of Jordanians so protocols have to be in place to protect both the travellers as well as the Jordanian hosts.
3. How do you plan to attract visitors once the pandemic ends?
We are working with our partners on phases, we are now in the inspiration phase. We hope through our messaging and social media platforms to keep Jordan front and centre on people’s minds while they are couch surfing and dreaming of vacations. We are launching a whole webinar series that digs a little deeper and focuses on educational sessions with the travel trade. We will have a lot of protocol information to send out once everything is in place as most countries do and in the meantime, we update all protocols on our website’s COVID-19 pages – www.myjordanjourney.com and www.visitjordan.com.
4. Some Jordanian tourism attributes – such as Petra and Jerash – are well known. What are some of the lesser-known attractions that you think deserve visitors?
Jordan is an open-air museum with thousands of archaeological and biblical sites throughout the country. I personally, in addition to visiting Petra and Jerash, would recommend following the meaningful travel map of Jordan that we created with Tourism Cares and start by visiting the Northern parts of Jordan at the Decapolis city of Um Qais, and then head south slowly while visiting the social enterprises on the map and the historic sites around them. Each enterprise offers unique immersive local experiences where you can either work with the local bee keeper, or go foraging with one of the cooks, or learning how to cook our amazing food, or bike through local villages, etc. When you build these human connections, it changes us and builds a bond and an understanding between people. I would also make sure to spend a night or two in Feynan at our incredible Ecolodge, this immersive Bedouin experience is incredible and the hiking in the valley our surrounding mountains is simply majestic.
I also love Wadi Rum, the silence of the desert and the stars at night are just incredible. Wadi Rum has been the back drop for great movies like the recent Star Wars Movie; The Rise of Skywalker, Aladdin, The Martian and the new movie to be released this year Dunes. It is hard to pinpoint one or two places to go because every place in Jordan presents a different experience, different cuisine and a different climate.
My biggest recommendation to anyone wanting to visit would be to come, slow down, immerse yourself and soak up the energy that this historic country has to give.
5. What message do you have for travel agents whose businesses are struggling during the pandemic?
We are with you, we are also struggling, you are not alone and I know this sounds like a cliché but it is the truth. We are all struggling, all my colleagues in Jordan are going through a rough time. Our economy in Jordan depends on tourism and we need you! The Canadian market is extremely important to us and we look forward to working with you and partnering with you to help bring travel back together safely.