Jordan keen to augment wedding segment; sets sight on new markets to enhance footfalls

Jordan is a nation with plenty of tourist attractions. A concoction of ancient ruins and vibrant cities, it has enough to attract a discerning traveler. At a time when the entire region is in tumult, Ashit Taneja, Country Manager, Jordan Tourism Board is hoping to change prevalent perception through a vigorous outreach and create new markets by diversifying clientèle base. An excerpt of the interview:

Jordan Tourism BoardJordan’s geographical location is a tricky one, given that it is surrounded by Israel, Syria, Iran and Palestine. In such a hostile neighborhood, facing such a complex political situation, how difficult is it to promote Jordan as a tourist destination?

Ans. It is true that the situation in the neighboring region is not very stable to showcase Jordan as a promising tourist destination, but the good part that needs to be stressed is that nothing untoward has happened in Jordan. It also shares a very good relation with the neighboring countries, whether it is Israel, Egypt, Iran or even the government which is currently ruling Syria; having said that, Jordan, itself, is geographically a very small country. People live as a community bonded with each other.

The country is a Kingdom, and has a full-fledged operating government. So, on a more holistic picture, the nationals of Jordan are very happy and have not been influenced by the ideology of ISIS. The nation is politically safe; also as the major chunk of economy is dependent on tourism, therefore tourism remains important to the country.

So what kind of numbers have you been getting from India?

Ans. On an average, we have been receiving around fifty thousand Indians every year. Obviously, going forward, we want these numbers to grow. But, even achieving similar numbers as previous years will be an achievement for us because what has been happening in the region has, also, somewhere pushed Jordan in a negative light for the time being. Our main focus right now is to showcase to the world that despite being part of the troubled region, it is still a very safe destination for travel and tourism. So, our thrust is to create the perception of a safe destination.

What is the state of air-connectivity from India? You do not have direct flights which must be an impediment? How are you addressing this challenge?

Ans. It is true that direct air-connectivity is the best USP to promote any destination’s tourism. We, in fact, had Royal Jordanian flying direct to Mumbai and Delhi until October 2014, but it was unfortunately discontinued due to some internal reasons. We, as a tourism board, are very keen to have them back to re-establish direct connectivity between Indian and Jordanian cities. Talks are happening at multiple levels to ensure that service can be commenced soon. We are hopeful that we can have it commenced again. We may also have an arrangement with some other airline instead of Royal Jordanian.

But direct-connectivity apart, we have a number of middle-eastern airlines operating out of Jordan which provide excellent connectivity to India via Dubai and other hub cities.

For Instance, Air Arabia flies from 13 cities across India; further, they have multiple connections from Sharjah and Amman. Similarly, carriers like Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Oman Air and Qatar Airways have excellent connection across India. This connectivity also gives an advantage to Indian travelers because irrespective of whichever city he is flying from, he can think of any airline within that region, and can fly into the country.

 So Jordan is a leisure destination? Are you trying to diversify your positioning? How are you going about it?

Ans. It is a leisure destination, but we are not limiting ourselves to one segment. We are also attempting to promote Jordan as a MICE destination. It is, by default, a part of the Holy Land itinerary since ages. We are also venturing into wedding segment because we understand the potential of Indian weddings, for business and footfalls, taking place in international destinations. We believe that Jordan is the right fit as a destination for Indian wedding travelers. In fact to give a boost to this segment, we recently concluded a wedding planner trip; we hosted around 18 wedding planners across India, showcasing to them exotic resorts, cultural heritage and the availability of Indian food in our cities. Interestingly, the feedback has been very positive, and we hope that this enthusiasm will translate into solid footfalls. Dead Sea remains a key tourist destination, followed by Aqaba – it is a port city which has gained international repute for wind-surfing and other water-sport activities – and Petra. Unlike Jordan, no other country allows you to host events at one of the wonders of the world. The thought of hosting an event at the Little Petra, which is a part of the Seven Wonders of the World, will attract a lot of attention and holds tremendous potential.  

Give us a sense of the market segmentation? I presume it is predominantly leisure segment?

Ans. At this stage, roughly around 25 to 30 percent of Indians travelers are travelling on the Holy Land itinerary. The rest, in principal, constitute of leisure travelers. We do not have specific numbers on MICE movement, but based on the understanding of the groups travelling, we assume that roughly 5-8 percent of footfalls come from corporate travel.

What has been the trajectory of growth in numbers from the Indian outbound?

Ans. Well, for the past three years, we have received similar numbers from India. But as I mentioned earlier, clocking the same number is also an achievement for us, given the state of the region. Moving forward, we anticipate a good increase in footfalls in 2016.  We base our optimism on the fact that situation is getting a little settled in Syria now, especially with regard to the ISIS. We are also getting very aggressive in marketing and campaigning, whether it is in terms of addressing the business constituents or directly addressing the clientèle base.

what are your key source markets in India?

Ans.  If you talk about leisure market, they are Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Now we will be focusing more on Gujarat with cities like Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara, given that the Gujarati community is a top-traveler.  If you talk about the Holy Land itinerary, it primarily emanates from the southern coastal region of the country – which is primarily Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. 

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