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AMMAN – With some tourism officials pinning their hopes on domestic tourism to keep the industry afloat amidst regional unrest, sector representatives cast doubt whether citizens will be willing to pa

AMMAN – With some tourism officials pinning their hopes on domestic tourism to keep the industry afloat amidst regional unrest, sector representatives cast doubt whether citizens will be willing to pay international rates.

In a meeting last week attended by tour operators, hotel owners and members of the Jordan Tourism BoardJordan Tourism Board, industry leaders warned that international visitors are cancelling planned tours to the Kingdom due to the regional situation and the exaggerated media reports of peaceful protests in the Kingdom.

Some suggested a renewed focus on the domestic market in order to compensate for financial losses caused by the cancellations and lack of new bookings.

However, tour operators have expressed doubt over the feasibility of the proposal, noting that with the current financial difficulties facing the country, few Jordanians will be willing to spend money on a holiday at home or abroad.

“Right now, Jordanians have other issues to worry about,” deputy director of the Jordan Society of Tourism and Travel Agents, Amjad Maslamani, told The Jordan Times on Saturday.

Many Jordanians have already cancelled trips to Cairo, Sharm El Sheikh, Lebanon and Turkey, destinations that offer more competitive rates and packages than the five-star establishments at the Dead Sea and Aqaba, he noted.

Nabeeh Riyal, owner of a travel agency, agreed, stressing that even prior to the recent economic downturn, few Jordanians were willing to pay for the rates hotels charge foreign tourists.

“As long as hotel rates remain high, domestic tourism will not be the answer,” he said.

Riyal noted that even with domestic tourism, the sector will not receive the needed influx of foreign currencies that come with foreign tourists.

Muhannad Malhas, spokesman for the Jordan Inbound Tourism Operators Association, said that while domestic tourism would serve as a boost to hotels, other segments of the industry would continue to struggle.

“The tourism sector is not based on hotels only. Transportation, handicrafts and restaurants are affected by the downturn,” he pointed out.

Hanaie Sughayyer, the owner of a travel agency specialised in domestic tourism, said that even local demand for the Kingdom’s natural, historical and luxury destinations have taken a hit over the last month.

“We used to arrange several local trips this time of year; now we have none,” he told The Jordan Times, citing financial difficulties and tighter budgets as the reasons behind the drop.

The Kingdom’s tourism industry accounts for 14 per cent of the gross domestic product and indirectly employs 120,000 people.