NEW YORK -- Despite "misperceptions" about public safety there,
Jordan's tourism board vice chairman said the country is trying to
build up its volume of U.S. visitors.
Marwan Khoury, vice chairman and director of the Jordan Tourism
Board (JTB), said the public-private organization targets
Christian, cultural/historical and ecotourism markets.
The JTB also is starting to look at the meetings and incentives
"It may be the right time to make long-term investments here" to
tap that sector, said Khoury, who was in the midst of a swing to
the U.S., Germany, France and the U.K.
Khoury's visit last week followed the Oct. 28 shooting death of
a U.S. diplomat in Jordan.
Referring to anti-American extremism worldwide, the U.S. State
Department last year cautioned U.S. citizens in Jordan "to maintain
a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase
their security awareness to reduce their vulnerability."
Khoury claimed that the total number of visitors to Jordan is up
4% to 5% compared with 2000, with regional visitors from Syria,
Egypt and Lebanon driving that growth.
However, travel from western Europe and North America is down
"In normal times, the U.S. amounts to 10% of our traffic," he
"Our geographic location is nothing to write home about," Khoury
said. "We live in a rough neighborhood."
"It's business as usual" for the JTB, he said, as the country
counters, through agent training and familiarization trips, what he
views as erroneous perceptions of Jordan.
Visitors sometimes expect a "desert land in the middle of
nowhere," Khoury said.
"We are a moderate, modern and peaceful country," he added. "We
are working with the private sector to come up with a program to
work more closely with the trade."
The looming possibility of a U.S. engagement with Iraq, coupled
with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, certainly dampens prospects
for a revival of tourism, which accounts for 10% of the country's
gross domestic product.
"The whole story is not good for us," Khoury said. "It is not
good for the area. We need a close [in time] solution."