By Fares Braizat, Apr 17,2022

In 2019 the tourism sector boomed in tourism-focused countries such as Jordan, Egypt, the UAE, West Bank-Jerusalem, Israel, and Turkey despite all protracted local and regional conflicts. The rebound of the tourism sector after COVID-19-related restrictions were lifted indicates that the tourism industry in these countries is living with the new normal: low-intensity conflicts and adaptation strategies. 

Despite the fact that the tourism industry adapted to the volatile security environment and protracted conflicts of different intensity, they still impede the industry’s potential at two interrelated levels. 

One is the perception of destination among international travelers. For example, potential tourists considering visiting the Middle East from Morocco to Iran can count eight low, medium and high-intensity conflicts. The persistence of these conflicts discourages tourists and prevents safe countries such as Jordan and Egypt from realizing their reasonable tourism potential and ensuing economic benefits. Therefore, it is in the interest of these countries to pacify, defuse, contain, and confine the impact of these conflicts if they cannot end them. 

It is at this level – neutralizing the negative impact of these conflicts – that innovation in marketing, positioning, and image building makes a difference. 

Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Turkey, have overcome a significant part of this image challenge, which is the perception of the region, particularly in Europe, which is a major source market. Despite the image of a conflict-ridden region in source markets, tourism receipts have increased significantly year on year since 2017.

The other level is the perception potential tourists have of the safety and security of the country of destination and its various sites. At this level, visitor experience is a major determinant of the image of the country of destination. Therefore, managing local community with tourism as an industry and with tourists in mind is paramount to turning a one-off visitor to a repeat visitor. This relates to the ability of the country, with all its agencies, to respond to crises, and to ensure a clean environment and a proper treatment of tourists.   

The combination of policies at these two levels is essential. Jordan has a great potential to build on its image as a peaceful and safe country to position its tourism industry in a competitively advantageous fashion. Therefore, joint programs with neighboring and complementary destinations are badly needed; cooperating with others and creating new products will help change the image of the region, especially in rich source markets of Europe and North America. 

Conflicts of various levels of intensity will be present in the region for the foreseeable future. We should neither submit nor accept them as “unchangeable obstacles”. Their persistence in the region should not impede the potential of tourism and its positive socio-economic impact. 

If the region’s tourism industry pull itself out, upward and forward despite these conflicts, if it proves resilient, its future growth will be ensured.      

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

This article was originally published in Jordan News on April 17, 2022. For the original article source, click here