Steeped in history, spectacular desert and a growing array of active outdoor pursuits, Jordan’s tourism offering is both diverse and welcoming 

Written by: Jonathan Dyble / Project Manager: Jordan Levey
Jordan may be a relatively young state, but it is one that contains the hallmarks of many civilisations. From the ancient kingdoms of Moab, Gilead and Edom to Petra, the epicentre of the Nabatean dynasty, Jordan has been home to a vast array of cultures through its history. Also formally part of Roman and Ottoman empires, the country gained independence in 1946 and today is among the most liberal nations in the Arab world. 

This history serves as one of Jordan’s major draws for tourists, with no fewer than five World Heritage Sites representing the cultural diversity enshrined in the country’s past. Indeed, Petra has been named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, while the Wadi Rum represents one of many inspiring desert landscapes that caused Lawrence of Arabia to fall in love with this region. Asides these monuments and terrains, Jordan also has a tradition of welcoming visitors, from camel trading caravans to the modern-day business and leisure traveller. This combination of history, natural wonder and hospitality present a unique and enticing tourism offering, and one which has seen increasing numbers of visitors explore the country in recent years.

The Business End

Despite its location in an unstable region, Jordan has a reasonably diverse, albeit small economy. This has been helped by economic reforms in the late 1990s and its subsequent entry into the World Trade Organization, with the state also partially privatising some of its enterprises. Trade and finance account for around a third of the country’s GDP, while transportation and communication, public utilities, and construction between them make up around a fifth of national income. Manufacturing and mining also contribute around 20 percent. 

The tourism industry is also an important source of revenue, and visitor numbers are on the up again after neighbouring conflicts had hit the sector hard. Around 4.2 million tourists visited Jordan in 2017, a figure which governing authorities want to rise to seven million by 2020. Commenting on the 2017 figures earlier this year, Tourism Minister Lina Mazhar Annab said: “We ended the year 2017 with a growth of nearly 15 percent with respect to the number of visitors and 18 percent in revenues, and the same progress was recorded in the first quarter of this year.” Currently tourism contributes 10-12 percent of GDP, and plans to diversify the sector and focus on the likes of adventure, cultural, archaeological, medical, and religious tourism will only serve to extend the country’s appeal to a wider audience.

Out and About

Jordan is revered for its ancient monuments and desert landscapes, but tourism authorities are increasingly looking to present the country as a go-to for all things outdoors and active. The Dana to Petra leg of the Jordan Trail was voted by National Geographic as one of the top 15 hikes in the world, while the new Jordan Bike Trail offers equally stunning opportunities to take in the scenery from Umm Qais to the Red Sea. The latter presents excellent waters in which to snorkel and dive, with average sea temperatures reaching 22.5 degrees in winter and 26 degrees in summer. The reefs are home to around 1,000 species of fish, including clownfish, parrotfish and angelfish, although visitors are warned about the presence of dangerous species of jellyfish which take a liking to warm seas. Camel trekking, horse riding and rock climbing are other popular outdoor activities well catered to in Jordan, while those looking to relax may have their eyes on one of the seemingly limitless spas and Turkish baths at hotels and in towns.

Industry Insights: The Jordan Hotel Association

The Jordan Hotel Association (JHA), a non-profit organisation, was founded in 1969 and is currently registered at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. Jordan, over the past few decades, has developed a need to establish an association to protect the interests of hotels and upgrade them to international standards. Discussing this and all things tourism in the country is Vatché Yergatian, General Manager of the Jordan Hotal Association, who answers our questions. 

Outlook Travel: Can you firstly talk me through the origins of the Jordan Hotel Association and where it is today?
Vatché Yergatian:
Jordanian Hoteliers needed a body to represent them and to care for their interests with the government and other relevant entities, as well as to carry out joint activities in marketing and training. The Jordan Hotel Association is currently witnessing continuous development and improvements in the performance and quality of service that it provides to its associate hotels – progress of development can be described as continuous and steady. The subsequent strategic analysis will be practical and systematic, seeking to achieve a clear image of the future of the association and the hotel sector. The results of this analysis will then be translated into general objectives for the work environment, calling on a series of steps that identify appropriate procedures to achieve better results depending on the use of the resources available, and ultimately elevate the association in the coming years. The JHA is dedicated to serving its members that represent a variety of hotel establishments, through effective communication and active participation in identifying their needs, while directing the hotel service towards greater creativity and passion through the generation of ideas that can be adapted to different tourism scenarios.  

Why, in your opinion, should someone visit Jordan?
With a population of only 10 million, some people might think that Jordan has little to offer as a travel destination. However, most travellers who choose to spend time in the country are surprised at the diversity and staggering beauty of it and will leave feeling touched by the generosity and kindness of its people. From stunning natural landscapes to world-renowned historical and religious sites, Jordan is truly a hidden gem of the Middle East. We have a very diverse tourism offering. Although many consider Petra to be the most important tourist attraction in Jordan it is only one of the hundreds of ancient ruins people can see when they visit. In recent years, an increased number of visitors have been coming to Jordan to take part in activities related to biblical tourism, medical and wellness, adventurism, MICE and traditional culture. Further, Jordan has all types of cuisines that a visitor can crave for. They are located at four- and five-star hotels and freestanding international and local restaurants.

What trends are transforming the tourism industry in Jordan at present? How are you responding to these trends?
The tourism industry is given great attention from His Majesty King Abdullah the second himself and the government, because it constitutes around 12 percent of GDP and it’s been increasing in the past few years, aiming at around 15 percent within the next three years. Therefore, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB), Jordan Inbound Tour Operators Association and other stakeholders cooperate and coordinate to try and come up with strategies regarding each governorate and eventually the whole of Jordan. The Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority has agreements for cheap flights directly to Aqaba, moreover large tourist ships arrive to Aqaba regularly. Digital is having a big impact, for example, user generated content on various social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat), and the use of online booking platforms to plan various itineraries and explore travel options (Expedia,, Skyscanner, is rising. Airbnb has drastically reduced that cost of accommodations and facilitated longer stays at a destination, while Uber and Careem have made it easier to get around at a fixed price, reducing the chance of being overcharged.

Are there any plans or projects in the pipeline that you wish to highlight?
At this point in time, the JTB is currently working on the development of its new website. This website will be more interactive and provide visitors with all of the information they need to make the most of their time in Jordan. The Meaningful Travel Maps of Jordan is also a very exciting project as it provides tourists with the opportunity to engage in tourist experiences that give back to the local community. Sustainable tourism is currently very important to travellers as they are looking for unique experiences to add to the more traditional tourism itineraries.  

Are you optimistic about the future of the business travel and tourism industry in Jordan?
I am very optimistic when it comes to travel and tourism. MICE will be an important part of the JTB strategy for the coming years. There are a couple of very large international conferences which will be held in Jordan in 2019, one of them being the Middle East African Council of Ophthalmology Conference .As for the tourism industry in general, specifically knowing that the last three years have had good increases in numbers, I am also optimistic. Major attractions are seeing steady increases in visitors numbers.

Outlook Recommends 

Catering to business and leisure travellers alike, the Crowne Plaza Amman is in very close proximity and within walking distance of the main shopping area of Sweifiyeh, as well as the popular Gold Souk of Um Utheina and only 10 minutes from Amman's Citadel, Roman Theater and Souq Jara. It is the closest five-star hotel to Queen Alia International Airport, which is around 35 minutes away. The hotel also boasts a 24-hour business centre. 


Getting There and Around

Getting between cities in Jordan is best done by car, which also allows visitors to enjoy some scenic routes. There is one domestic route served by air, with daily flights being offered between Amman and Aqaba, cities which are also connected by a non-stop coach.  National airline Royal Jordanian is a reliable choice and a carrier which serves most major cities in Europe and all capitals in the Middle East. Royal Wings, a subsidiary of Royal Jordanian, offers more expensive charter flights on smaller planes. 

The two largest cities in Jordan, Amman and Irbid, have efficient and cost-effective local bus networks, with public minibuses being the most popular way of getting around, although these only tend to depart once they are full and can sometimes be crowded.  Depending on the time of year, navigating cities by bicycle may be the best bet for speed, cost and flexibility. In terms of getting in and out of Jordan, Queen Alia International Airport, about 35 kilometres south of Amman, is the country’s main gateway and one which has been recently refurbished.