(MENAFN - Jordan Times) AMMAN — For the first time, the government's policy statement before the Parliament gave an adequate focus on the tourism sector and its importance for the economy, Tourism Minister Lina Annab said on Monday.
'No previous statement ever included a complete paragraph on the importance of tourism and its major contribution to the GDP,' Annab noted during a panel discussion titled 'Tourism industry in a stormy region' and organised by the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.
The minister highlighted the "fundamental change" in the official perception of the significance of the sector, noting that its importance stems from its tremendous global growth, which must be invested more efficiently in light of the Kingdom's current economic situation.
She noted that, while many sectors were in a lull, tourism was among the top suppliers of the Treasury in the past couple of years.
For the past few years, stakeholders have been focusing on reassuring the world that Jordan is safe, absorbing all efforts that should have been exerted in plans and projects to improve the sector, Annab claimed.
Jordan, according to global indicators, is among the safest countries globally and even safer than some countries that receive millions of tourists, she stated, stressing the need to work on improving tourism as a "sustainable and major source of revenues" for the economy.
"They say tourism is like oil for Jordan, but I say tourism is even better as oil can run out,' Annab underscored.
In addition to the major sites like Petra, the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum, Jordan also has a great diversity of attractions, which necessitates working on various types of tourism too often left under-promoted, she continued.
Citing global and local tourism indicators and studies, Annab noted that over 131 media outlets listed Jordan as "one of the top places to visit in 2018".
Out of the world's 1.2 billion tourists who generate revenues worth $1.5 trillion, China provides the largest number of tourists followed by the US, according to the minister.
While 50 per cent of the world's tourists go to Europe, only five per cent choose the Middle East, she stated, highlighting the importance of modern technology, as 95 per cent of the world's tourists use it to obtain information and plan their trips.
Jordan's tourism income currently stands at JD3 billion, which is expected to double in light of a five-year plan drafted by the ministry.
In 2017, revenues increased by 13 per cent compared with 9 per cent in 2016, while the first quarter of 2018 saw an increase of 15 per cent compared to the same period of the previous year, Annab noted.
The majority of tourists are overnight visitors, and the average stay has increased to 4.2 days, compared to three days in the past few years, the minister pointed out, adding that average individual spending amounts to $254 per stay, the highest in the region.
She stressed that the budget allocated for the Tourism Ministry, the Jordan Tourism Board and the General Department of Antiquities does not exceed 1 per cent (JD29 million) of the tourism income, which stood at JD3.2 billion in 2017.
During a question an answer session with the attendees, the minister stressed that the accessibility of sites for people with disabilities is "a top priority" of the ministry, as stipulated by law.