Dubai: The year 2010 was the best year for tourism in Jordan. But the Arab Spring and unrest in the Arab world saw foreign tourist arrivals plummeting till the end of 2015. However, in early 2016, tourism started showing visible signs of revival, and has been continuing on that path ever since.

“Last year was very good for tourism in Jordan”, said Ala’a Al-Hindi, Director, Digital Marketing and IT, Jordan Tourism Board (JTB). “Tourist arrivals grew by 15 per cent and major source markets like Spain and Italy saw over 50 per cent growth in visitor traffic; Chinese arrivals grew by 40 per cent and India by 20 per cent.”

The first quarter of 2018 fared better than the corresponding period in 2017 across all markets except a few GCC countries. The KSA market grew by over 50 per cent. Russia and CIS, another important source market, also witnessed increased traction.

“In 2017, Jordan began marketing the country as an adventure tourism destination. A separate division for adventure tourism marketing was established within JTB. A new cross-country trekking route is helping in that direction.”

Billed as the ‘Inca Trail of the Middle East’, the 400-mile Jordan Trail runs from the Mediterranean village of Umm Qais in the north to the Red Sea in the south, passing through 52 villages, and two UNESCO® World Heritage sites. Trekkers can now undertake the 36-day hike in one go or choose one of the eight 50-mile-long sections. The Jordan Trail is perfect to appreciate the diversity of this country’s landscape.

“The accommodations along the trail range from eco-lodges to camping tents and Bedouin tents (beit alshaar). One of the goals of the Jordan Trail is to integrate the Bedouin communities and preserve the culture of these nomadic desert dwellers,” Al-Hindi added.

In 2018, JTB is investing all its efforts to promote Faith Tourism. The Baptismal site and numerous Islamic locations add to the charm. “We call it Umrah Plus. Faith tourists to the Holy Cities can spend a few days in Jordan before or after Umrah.” The port of Aqaba is seeing increased action on the cruise tourism front. Cruise ships are arriving at the port carrying tens of thousands of guests who spend a day or even a night visiting the ‘Golden Triangle’ of Aqaba, Petra and Wadi Rum.

The archaeological site of Petra, the crowning jewel of Jordan’s tourism offerings and a must-visit destination for every tourist is only a 90-minute drive from the port. Wadi Rum is ideal for dune bashing and was made popular by the Matt Damon starrer The Martian. Managed by Hilton, the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre (KHBTCC) on the eastern shores of the Dead Sea can host up to 3000 delegates. The Hilton Dead Sea Resort and Spa, which opened in 2017, is connected to the convention centre.

The ATTA (Adventure Travel Trade Association) convention and the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) conference are scheduled to be held at the KHBTCC. “Apart from the Hilton, many 5-star hotels are also located close by on the shores of the Dead Sea. The Fairmont opened recently, W Hotel and Rotana are operational on the Boulevard, St. Regis will open soon and the Ritz Carlton is under construction. So, Amman is all set for MICE.”

A few months ago, Jordan granted visa on arrival for Indian tourists. Jordanian authorities predict that this year alone will witness a whopping 200 per cent increase in the number of global tourists coming to the Kingdom compared to last year.