Tourism is and will continue to be a long-term driver of economic growth in Jordan, accounting for the largest slice of GDP in Jordan’s productive economy.
However, the traditional tourism base of Jordan has suffered recent shocks in the last few years, resulting from a regional instability and a reduction in travelers to the Middle East. As a result, businesses within the tourism sector, both those who are directly and indirectly engaged, have been struggling. With creativity and resourcefulness on the part of industry stakeholders, product offerings can be enriched and marketing activities upgraded to present the targeted destination as a safe, accessible, and culturally rich destination offering a mix of, culture, historical, sport, and desert adventure experiences to suit regional, and domestic tourists.
USAID LENS Work
USAID LENS is working to support tourism product development and marketing in niche subsectors in targeted governorates. Through technical assistance and capacity building, USAID LENS seeks to develop and systemize experiential and adventure tourism. These types of tourism effectively integrate micro and small business owners in Jordan into the tourism economy, and provide them and their families with an additional source of income, particularly in Jordan’s low-income rural and local communities. USAID LENS started focusing on experiential tourism because it is a fast-growing subsector in tourism. Through primary and secondary research, we recognized that the future of tourism is not sedentary, and that travel consumer attitudes are changing, where travelers are seeking experiences and are looking for meaning on more personal and emotional levels whilst traveling. After conducting a focus group with a few tour operators in Jordan surrounding the issue of why experiences are not being incorporated in travel itineraries and packages, two main challenges were addressed:
- Lack of resources to identify, access and train local experiential hosts around Jordan.
- Lack of marketing tools, like videos, to promote and sell these experiences.
- Awarded a grant in September 2015 to a private sector firm called Experience Baraka to create a cluster of community-owned, run and managed tourism micro-enterprises that meet market demand in three municipal communities in the North of Jordan.
- In 2017, USAID LENS, in partnership with the Jordan Tourism Board, started producing sixteen (16) videos of different experiences around Jordan, to be used for marketing purposes benefitting both the tour operators/tourism businesses by diversifying their offerings, as well as the experiential hosts at local communities by increasing their revenue to better their livelihoods. Each one of these videos highlights an experience which USAID LENS identified and developed with hosts from local communities in different governorates.
In 2018, USAID LENS signed a grant with Guiding Star (Project Daraja), with the purpose of resolving the issue surrounding MSEs along the Jordan Bike Trail and their lack of resources that would allow them to connect tourists with their services. By developing bike trails through the targeted governorates (Irbid, Ajloun, Balqa, Amman, Madaba, Tafilah, Ma’an, and Aqaba), Guiding Star is physically developing the infrastructure to connect tourists to local service providers. Furthermore, by training locals on social media outreach, hospitality/cleanliness, cycling support guides and bike maintenance personnel, as well as equipping them with the equipment they might need, Guiding Star is addressing two issues – unskilled workers and the lack of resources connecting tourists to MSE services.