Q&A WITH 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 Hotel Association, who answers our questions.
Can you firstly talk me through the origins of the Jordan Hotel Association and where it is today?
Vatché Yergatian (VY): 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?
(VY): 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?
(VY): 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, Booking.com, Skyscanner, Hotel.com) 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?
(VY): 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?
(VY): 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.