By Fares Braizat, Aug 14, 2022

The open-air museum that is Jordan, which combines natural wonders, rich archeological history, unique heritage tourism products, faith tourism locations and stories, conferences and events, unique film production sites, medical and wellness products, and, most importantly, safety and stability is looked upon by our neighbors in Saudi Arabia and Oman as a useful model to inform their tourism growth plans. Despite the significant differences in the source markets and purpose of travel in these two countries, they complement, and compete with, Jordan in many ways. 

Complementarity is mutually beneficial. Jordan can attract a few hundred thousand of the millions of Muslims pilgrims who perform hajj and umrah to visit the over 53 sites and shrines of prophets and companions of the Prophet Mohammad. This requires some streamlining of accessibility to Jordan, especially from countries with restricted visa access to Jordan, where a Saudi visa can be used to access the Kingdom by getting a visa at the entry border point. In turn, Saudi can streamline its accessibility for those who visit the golden triangle to visit Al Ula and Madaen Saleh, as well as the newly emerging resorts and attractions on the Saudi side or the Red Sea. Probably a designated border crossing between the two countries with a desert road trip experience is worth considering.

Oman’s diverse climate and tourist products are not in direct competition with those of Jordan. However, although Oman is a relatively virgin land for the tourism industry, despite its very high potential, it is working on positioning itself as a destination for the expatriate communities in the GCC. Oman is geographically closer to the majority of them than Jordan, with much better access, whether by air or by land. Positioning Jordan as a destination for weekend getaways and short holidays for GCC-based expatriates is long overdue. The weather is a great selling point to attract both GCC nationals and expatriates alike.     

Both Oman and Saudi Arabia are attracting Jordanian labor qualified in the tourism sector. This is a very helpful competition, indeed an opportunity, even as the drain of qualified labor in the tourism sector is putting a lot of strain on the Jordanian tourism sector. 

Hotels, restaurants, adventure, and even medical institutions are witnessing a migration to these newly emerging “tourism industry” markets. It could be an opportunity for Jordan to invest heavily in “skill development” in the tourism sector for local, regional, and international markets.

Although Saudi Arabia and Oman have many unique advantages, their “tourism industry” has not yet taken off compared to that of Jordan. While Saudi Arabia received nearly 20 million “tourists” in 2019, Oman received around 3.5 million. Jordan received 5.3 million, and the UAE over 20 million. 

Saudi tourism has been dependent on Muslim Haj and Umrah, but the 2030 vision is targeting 100 million, working to diversify products and source markets. 

Oman vision 2040 is less ambitious, but the country needs professional labor to realize its goals and compete with the market leader for now, UAE. This competition will create more demand for qualified Jordanian labor, especially for Arabic speaking professionals.

The writer is the Chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, H.E. Dr. Fares Braizat. 

This article was originally published in Jordan News on August 14, 2022. For the original article source, click here