|By Khetam Malkawi, Jordan Times,
AmmanMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 30 , 2011--AMMAN -- For years tourism has been one of the main contributors to the gross domestic product, but this year the industry is facing new challenges that could even lead to many hospitality sector workers losing their jobs, sector representatives said on Tuesday.
Over the past two months, the industry launched campaigns using all available tools to deliver the message that Jordan is safe, despite the unrest in some Arab countries, but after last Friday's protest ended in violence, coupled with the events in Syria, the industry's mission will be even more difficult, they noted.
Muhannad Malhas, Jordan Inbound Tour Operators Association (JITOA) spokesperson, said business is bad due to the current situation.
"The joint package tours for Syria and Jordan are being cancelled," added Malhas, who also owns a travel agency.
He told The Jordan Times over the phone that his company yesterday received cancellations from 90 groups of Japanese tourists who made reservations to visit Jordan and Syria.
"Yes, the industry is being affected and we will notice the difference," Malhas said, noting that some tour operators and companies are considering cutting expenses by "laying off some workers and reducing salaries of others".
According to the JITOA spokesperson, the problem is that some people are not aware of the negative impact of these demonstrations on the tourism industry.
"New investment projects in the sector will also suffer," he pointed out.
In addition, the situation has affected hotel occupancy in the country, according to Michael Nazzal, head of the Jordan Tourism Association (JTA).
"Thousands cancelled rooms because of Friday's events in Amman... Is this the reform we want? 160,000 families live off tourism," he posted on Twitter.
The tourism sector contributes 14 per cent of the gross domestic product and has more than 150,000 indirect employees, according to JTA figures.
However, despite all the current challenges, the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) said it will step up efforts to alleviate the impact of these incidents on tourism.
"We will continue our promotion campaigns in Europe and intensify them in Gulf countries," JTB Director General Nayef Fayez told The Jordan Times yesterday.
"The current situation is difficult. There are cancellations, but we are looking ahead to the next high season," he noted.
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Copyright (c) 2011, Jordan Times, Amman
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