Riyadh, Amman to strengthen tourism sector ties

Riyadh has already granted SR897 million to rehabilitate the Azraq Road in the country, while a Saudi delegation will visit Amman soon to discuss potential areas of cooperation and the possibility of rehabilitating the Maan-Mudawara Road of Jordan with Saudi financial support.
“On the other hand, Riyadh and Amman have also pledged to cement their ties and push forward their cooperation in the tourism sector,” said Nayef H. Al-Fayez, Jordanian minister of tourism and antiquities, in Riyadh on Sunday night.
Al-Fayez was speaking on the sidelines of a tourism presentation ceremony organized by the Jordan Tourism Board in Riyadh Sunday night. A number of Saudi and Jordanian businessmen and travel industry leaders including Jordanian Ambassador Jamal Shamayleh were present.
Jordan has received a grant from Saudi Arabia to rehabilitate the Azraq road, which is a major corridor for trade and transportation in addition to passenger traffic, linking Jordan with several destinations including Iraq and Arab Gulf countries through Saudi Arabia. The Maan-Mudawara Road project will also be funded by Riyadh. A tender will be floated soon for the 110-kilometer road, to be completed within three years. The main contractor of the project will be a Saudi company working in cooperation with two Jordanian contractors.
Referring to his talks with Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities chief Prince Sultan bin Salman on Sunday, Al-Fayez said a commitment was made to enhance relations in the tourism sector further. He said the two countries could exchange information and learn from each other’s experience in this field. He said Jordan’s tourism sector is looking to rebound in the coming year. Fayez said that Jordan’s tourism sector has shown a significant growth recently.
The Jordanian minister said growth was across the board and covered arrival numbers, the number of nights stayed, and revenues. “Hence, there are several areas in the growing sub-sectors of tourism where Jordan can cooperate with Saudi Arabia,” said Al-Fayez, adding Amman has a very strong battery of tour guides, tourist police and personnel working in tourism sector. Moreover, Jordan has been a top medical tourism destination in the Middle East since the 1970s, he added.
A study conducted by Jordan’s Private Hospitals Association (PHA) found 250,000 patients from 102 countries received treatment in Jordan in 2010, compared to 190,000 in 2007, bringing over $1 billion in revenue. It is the region’s top medical tourism destination as rated by the World Bank, and fifth in the world overall. The years 2011 and 2012 saw an influx of Arab patients from Libya and Syria entering the Kingdom for treatment.
It is estimated Jordan received 50,000 Libyan patients and 80,000 Syrian refugees who also sought treatment in Jordanian hospitals in the last six months.
Asked about the number of tourists visiting Jordan, Al-Fayez said the number of tourists from Arab countries are rising rapidly. Saudi visitors totaled 190,000 last year with this figure likely to grow further this year, he added. A number of Saudi tourists visit Jordan for medical treatment, for religious tourism, and to see heritage.
“A country of outstanding biodiversity, Jordan offers great surprises in the unique area along the eastern coastline of the Dead Sea,” said the Jordanian minister.
He said the moon-like landscape of Wadi Rum in Jordan is unique. The desert of Rum is dotted with massive mountains colored in shades of red, yellow and orange, said the minister. This is in addition to the Gulf of Aqaba, which is famous for its marine wildlife; Ajlun Nature Reserve, famous for hills covered with dense woodlands and evergreen oak; and Azraq, a wetland oasis in the heart of the semi-arid Jordanian desert.

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