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Jordan Destination Review and Industry Seminar
Report by: Deirdre Campbell, TIES Advisory Board Member, Owner, The Tartan Group
As part of an ongoing USAID-sponsored skills development program, TIES was invited to participate in site visits of Jordan's ecotourism, nature-based and adventure travel destinations, and present at a one-day workshop (17 Nov 2012) to members of the JTB and the Jordan Inbound Tourism Association (who also sponsored the event). The purpose of the site visits and workshop was to help Jordan's tourism community to better understand the ecotourism and adventure tourism markets, in order to enhance existing product and develop new product that can compete in the growing global tourism marketplace. Along with TIES, a representative from the Adventure Travel Trade Association and Wildland Adventures also contributed to the program.
In preparing the presentation, TIES goals were:
- To introduce tourism stakeholders in Jordan to TIES as a global network of ecotourism leaders.
- To raise the profile of ecotourism and the many benefits it provides to businesses, communities and destinations.
- To position ecotourism as more than a "niche" market but rather a mindset for sustainable tourism development and growth that is global in scope.
- To expand on concepts and case studies to provide substantial insight on how to market and promote ecotourism and sustainable tourism.
Minister Nayef Hmeidi Al-Fayez, the Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities of Jordan
TIES presentation at the Jordan Destination Seminar, Deirdre Campbell
Ecotourism Opportunities in Jordan
The fundamentals of ecotourism are that it contributes to conservation and benefits communities. Ecotourism should remain a vital source of inspiration for destinations, businesses and communities around the world – particularly in light of the sustainability issues facing the tourism industry today. Early discussions while preparing for the workshop raised the concern that ecotourism was being viewed as limited to a niche market – similar to bird watching, hiking and other forms of soft adventure. It was also often being confused with "nature-based tourism" (that is conducted with a minimal footprint) versus the definition as accepted worldwide: "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of people" (TIES, 1990).
Reviewing the tourism experiences and opportunities within Jordan against the principles of ecotourism – also taking into consideration the results of the destination awareness survey TIES had conducted prior to the event (*see below for more information) – TIES provided insights and recommendations on maximizing the opportunities for ecotourism product development in Jordan.
The following is a summary of these recommendations.
Minimize Negative Impact & Maximize Benefits
Jordan is a beautiful country with incredible natural and geographical assets. Unfortunately, many potential ecotourism sites face serious garbage problems - particularly with plastic waste and disposable water bottles. While this is a resident issue, it seriously detracts from the visitor experience, and it can only be imagined that if tourism were to grow, so would the amount of garbage. Feynan Ecolodge in the Dana Biosphere Reserve is a leading example of local tourism businesses working to educate the local community on garbage collection, recycling and composting.
It is recommended that Jordan's tourism industry at the national level promote initiatives to empower businesses and destinations to tackle this issue. The Travelers Against Plastic (TAP) campaign, to be launched in early 2013, is an example of global initiatives that can be promoted within Jordan.
Build Awareness Through Visitor Engagement
The high level of professional expertise and story-telling skills offered by the guides at Feynan Ecolodge demonstrated that interpretation is a vital part of visitor experience. As noted by many workshop participants, there is a need for guide training to help build key skills, such as proficiency in English, story telling, interactive guiding, and knowledge of local cultural and natural heritage.
Guided tours are not the only ways to engage travelers in an educational experience. Hotels, operators and other service providers should promote interactive experiences wherever possible to share their stories in a more memorable way with the visitors. Some of the properties visited during the site visits seemed to have missed various opportunities for educating their guests and engaging them in the businesses' and destinations' sustainability stories – and this is an area that can be improved through steps that are relatively simple to follow.
Proactively Support Visitors' Desires to Give Back
The hospitality and warm welcome shown by locals will undoubtedly be the highlight of any visitor’s experience in Jordan. Many travelers, in addition to taking home the gifts that they receive from locals as great memories, will also hope to reciprocate the gesture or give something back. It will be helpful to provide these travelers with information, resources and opportunities to learn what to (and what not to) bring and how to give back in a way that is appropriate according to the local customs.
For example, are there local projects that travelers can participate in during their stay, and make financial contributions to support the projects after the trip? Is it important to provide travelers with accurate and credible information on how to contribute and how their contributions make a difference. Travelers Philanthropy - "tourism businesses and travelers making concrete contributions of time, talent and treasure to local projects beyond what is generated through the normal tourism business" (Center for Responsible Travel) – can add value to the growth of ecotourism and sustainable tourism markets within Jordan.
Pack for a Purpose, which helps travelers to pack needed supplies requested by community-based projects at their destinations around the globe, would also be a great tool for many hotels and lodges in Jordan.
TIES Jordan Destination Awareness Survey (November 2012)
In order to better to understand the perceptions of ecotourism opportunities in Jordan, and visitor expectations and preferences that influence decisions in choosing a destination, TIES conducted an online survey distributed to TIES members and subscribers through an email newsletter and social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). A total of 348 responses were collected during the survey period (November 9th-15th, 2012), and the following is a summary of the responses.
- Elements considered "Very Important" when choosing a destination include: Personal safety and security (65.9%); Unspoiled nature (52.6%); Cultural attractions (50.0%); and Commitment to conservation (57.9%)
- In terms of survey respondents' perception of Jordan as a tourism destination, the following are known by many to be available in Jordan: Cultural attractions (48.8% said "Strongly Agree") and Interpretation of cultural heritage (32.2%).
- In terms of survey respondents' perception of Jordan as a tourism destination, many "Don't Know" whether the following elements are available in Jordan: Guided nature-based activities (27.5%); Commitment to sustainability (28.4%); Commitment to conservation (26.9%); The availability of parks and protected areas (29.0%).
The survey shows that among this group of highly eco- and sustainability-minded travelers, Jordan is known for its cultural attractions, but still lacks awareness in terms of ecotourism-specific aspects (such as interpretation, parks and protected areas). For more details of TIES Jordan Destination Survey, please see full report on TIES-EXCHANGE (member log-in required).