While the government is implementing preventive measures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus in the Kingdom, the global outbreak has taken its toll on the tourism sector, stakeholders said on Wednesday.
“The situation is very difficult. We lost 50 per cent of tourists from the earlier closures, but with new restrictions, it has reached 90 per cent,” Jordan Society of Tourism and Travel Agents (JSTA) President Mohammad Samih told The Jordan Times over the phone.
Samih said he is “not expecting” many tourist arrivals during the spring season, although he remains optimistic about increased footfall in the fall — September, October and November.
The JSTA president said that the sector “was performing very well” before the outbreak, which encouraged many to expand, invest and hire new employees.
“All this evaporated within a couple weeks, and we have a lot of financial commitments that we are still unsure of how we will fulfil,” Samih said, noting that all those in the sector “have suffered grave losses”, from travel agents to hotels to restaurants, among others.
Although society members acknowledge the government’s efforts in the wake of the crisis, the JSTA president urged the authorities to address the sector’s concerns.
Jordan Tourism Guides Association (JTGA) President Raed Abdelhaq said that, while the reasons for banning travel to and from certain countries are valid, uncertainty remains about the duration.
“The bans and border closures have been carried out, but the plan remains unknown for the future. The Tourism Ministry says that the Urdun Jannah programme for internal tourism will make up for it, but it will not,” Abdelhaq said, noting that a dependency on internal tourism will not bring foreign currency into the country.
Abdelhaq noted that the Jordan Tourism Board and the ministry convened a meeting on Wednesday morning and another meeting was scheduled to be held at 5pm, gathering various entities to discuss solutions to alleviate the sector’s losses.
“Around 1,300 families of tour guides are waiting for news about openings, and out of all the guides, only 20 per cent are still working today, and the percentage will drop significantly with each coming day,” Abdelhaq said.
The Jordan Times attempted to contact the Tourism Ministry’s secretary general multiple times for comment, but to no avail.
Minister of Health Saad Jaber on Tuesday announced a slew of preventive measures, including the suspension of travel, with the exception of trucks, to and from Lebanon and Syria indefinitely.
He also announced a ban on entry into the Kingdom for passengers arriving from Spain, France and Germany, and on Jordanian citizens travelling to these countries. The ban will be put into effect next Monday, March 16.
Sea crossings between Jordan and Egypt have been closed, with air travel to and from Egypt reduced by 50 per cent.
Under the new measures, the Jordan River Crossing, the King Hussein Bridge and the Southern Crossing will also be closed.