International Writers Magazine:Tourism
between the rock and the hard place
achieved our goal of getting our Rose-Red Petra voted as one of
the new Seven Wonders of the World it is up to us to act now and
put our tourism house in order. If
we dont do that we are very likely to lose our sense of perspective
and short-change Petra, the ancient city that came a surprising
second beaten only by the Great Wall of China in a global voting
contest held in July 2007 that brought in other new wonders like
Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, Machu Picchu of Peru, Chichén
Itzá, Mexico, and Roman Colosseum in Italy and Taj Mahal
Out of 100 million votes through the internet and sms messages, the vote
for Petra hovered on the 22 million mark which shows many people around
the world identify with the slab-structured stoned city in the southern
part of Jordan.
The balloting for Petra, and its new status as one of the new seven wonders
is already posing opportunities and challenges to Jordan and the region.
We, tour operators and government must now adopt a forward-looking approach
of advocating responsible tourism through planning well-ahead to protect
the 2000-year-old marvel in the middle of the desert and which has experienced
the glories of different civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans and
The government must put forward judicious and prudent policies to ensure
there would be less impact on the antiquated site and that the longterm
preservation of this national treasure withstands the vagaries of time
as it has done so in the past.
And here different
organizations, local, regional and international and those interested
in maintaining heritage, we must push the government to come up with innovative
ways to improve its best management practices and techniques to preserve
the site and draw out specific plans of action to ensure least damage
and erosion while maintaining the benefits of a steady tourism flow.
tourism is expected to flow greatly into Jordan and to the Rose
Red city as a result of its new-acquired status. Many people have
been visiting Petra over the last years, and this is likely to continue.
And in the interest of the convergence of global cultures and positive
developments and bringing people together, we are hardly likely
to stop this, but we can act to prevent a potentially divisive situation
spiraling out of control while protecting our heritage for generations
This shouldnt be difficult since Petra is already a UNESCO World
Heritage Site watched over and monitored by international organizations
and committees. That means the government can draw on these and local
and international experts to provide the best advise, plans and methodologies.
Because of the eco-tourism perspective that is developing in Jordan, particularly
regarding nature reserves, which the Kingdom already has six of, and where
the prevailing views is to aim at a happy medium between economics and
environment, and business and heritage and culture, protecting Petra from
human tread can be done while ensuring the double-edged sword element
of tourism is kept under lock and key.
In spite of the unfortunate environmental impactwhich is why it
needs to be managed effectivelytourism is the largest industry in
the world. By itself it is a global economy having many derivative sectors
and supporting environmental conservation, and cultural heritage.
Tourism supports poverty alleviation in different areas of the globe,
including Jordan, by creating real sustainable local economies and is
much involved in community developments, local projects and different
cottage industries especially in rural areas.
But we must also brace ourselves for the inevitable. After the Petra victory,
a great demand for this environmentally sensitive product will begin to
permeate the insatiable demands of the tourism sector that is likely to
set an economic wheel and chain in motion.
An extra degree of
caution is required where heritage preservation and economic development
must go hand-in-hand to ensure non is made at the expense of the other
and that resource optimization is maintained to ensure equilibrium and
in Petra is expected to rise sky-high and in all directions, starting
from hotel properties (various categories), through to convention
centers, shopping malls, aqua water parks, fun fairs, horse-riding
clubs, and helicopter sight seeing trips.
This is why extra caution and a putting the breaks on philosophy
must be exercised despite the fact such infrastructure would create
much work and development in the central and southern regions of
the Kingdom and general prosperity of the area.
Existing hotel infrastructure already exists in Petra, there is good solid
base to build on, although hotels owners here suffered immensely since
October 2000 and after the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.
For five years the tourism situation flagged in the Kingdom and many were
not able to fulfill their obligations to the banks due to lack of business
in that period, and due to the issue of seasonality since the Rose-Red
City has always been dependant on cultural tourism from American, Canadian
and European markets especially.
But the situation has returned to normal over the last year or so. With
the new Petra win as well, new niche markets are likely to start evolving
such as MICE tourism (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events) and
other forms of leisure tourism.
All new expected investments should stretch seasonality and lengthen the
average stay and result in higher room occupancy levels in the hotels.
Such developments should also stress the principles of responsible travel
among local tour operators especially in respecting local cultures, values
and traditions and in minimizing waste due as many expect to see the doubling
of numbers of tourists to Jordan and Petra, now and in the coming few
© Awani Kawar November 2007
Interviewed by Marwan Asmar
Jordan is a booming tourism destination. More and more international
tourists are visiting the Kingdom than ever.
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