The current turmoil in the region, which has negatively affected the Kingdom’s hospitality industry, is also impacting the lives of people working in tourism-related businesses.
Even Petra, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and the country’s main tourism attraction, is not immune, according to tourism industry workers in the rose-red city.
Hani Muammar, one of the first tourist guides in Petra, had to convince his son to postpone his last year in university until his financial situation improves.
“It is not easy to ask my child to postpone his studies, but this year has been the most difficult one for me. My work depends on tourism, which is witnessing hard times,” he said.
“This year was the worst for the industry in Jordan since I started my career 55 years ago,” Muammar added.
“I hardly see tourists in the area. And I have to wait for hours every day to catch a group of tourists looking for a guide,” he told The Jordan Times while waiting to drum up some business near Petra’s visitors centre.
“We have been through difficult years before. But none of them can be compared to this year,” the septuagenarian noted.
Muammar is one of hundreds of Wadi Musa residents whose careers depend on tourism.
Tourist guides, hoteliers and owners of souvenir shops in the Nabataean city said their businesses witnessed significant losses since February, when the revolution started in Egypt.
“I almost have no customers,” Mahmoud Twaisi, who owns a souvenir shop near the Siq, told The Jordan Times.
He noted that the May-July period is always considered a good tourism season, but this year “these months are the worst”.
Twaisi added it would be difficult for shop owners to pay for the renewal of their licences and the monthly rent.
“We are not generating any profits, but we still have to pay,” he said, criticising marketing strategies developed by the concerned authorities to promote Jordan as a tourism destination.
“We should learn from this crisis and promote Jordan as a standalone destination and not part of joint packages with Syria, Lebanon and Egypt,” Twaisi pointed out.
Wael Khleifat who also owns a souvenir shop in the same area, agreed.
“I have no idea how I will be able to pay the rent,” he said, adding that his business depends on foreign tourists.
“Though there is a good number of Jordanians visiting Petra, they do not buy souvenirs,” Khleifat complained, noting that his sales have dropped by 90 per cent.
The hotel industry is also suffering.
Petra Hotels Association (PHA) President Fawaz Hasanat said the occupancy rate in area hotels did not exceed 10 per cent in the past few months.
“We are promoting local tourism to compensate for the losses, but the situation is still bad,” he told The Jordan Times.
According to Ministry of Tourism figures, 2.608 million tourists visited the Kingdom in the January-May period, an 11 per cent drop compared to the same period last year when the figure stood at 2.930 million.
Visitors to Petra also dropped by 28 per cent in the same period.