STEPHANIE TWAISSI, DIRECTOR, A PIECE OF JORDAN, SHARES INSIGHT IN DISCOVERING AUTHENTIC JORDAN WHILE HIGHLIGHTING THE UNIQUENESS OF THE DESTINATION.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How would you describe the current state of tourism in Jordan and the role of the business travel segment?
STEPHANIE TWAISSI: Jordan is a country surrounded by unrest but it is a stable and peace-seeking country. For many years Jordan has relied on tourism for a large part of the country's income and in towns like Petra, where we are based, the impact of the drop in tourism to the region is very significant.
We are therefore in a position where we must seek to attract a new type of visitor, branch out into a new area and show the world that Jordan is suitable for all types of travel, business included. The business travel sector is also important because of the influence they have when returning home.
[...] We need people to come and experience Jordan for themselves, meet the people and go home saying, "you have to visit!"
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: Being a community based tourism initiative in Petra, what would you offer to MICE travellers who seek to combine business and leisure?
STEPHANIE TWAISSI: [...] For us our main aim is to get visitors to the country to go beyond the tourism trail, to meet the people and engage in a cross cultural exchange.
We offer business travellers to the area the chance to step out of the normal tour programme and enjoy a home cooked meal with a local family, tour the local market place and learn to cook one of Jordan's traditional dishes.
It can be all too easy to stay within the conference complex and only get a snapshot of the host country. We differ because we offer an easy access and an open door to the local community for the hesitant or confident MICE tourist.
We can adapt to any programme, time constraint and interest.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What do you believe are the challenges related to promoting Jordan as a MICE destination?
STEPHANIE TWAISSI: [...] Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) and its offices worldwide are working hard to promote Jordan as a MICE location.
The UK and North America branch are particularly active in bringing conferences to the area; many travel related conferences have taken place here.
In many ways the MICE sector presents an ideal opportunity for the country.
We know that when travel professionals enjoy their time here they will see the potential and begin to promote Jordan as a viable business development option or to simply come back as a leisure tourist.
[...] We often face the questions of safety and stability in Jordan from potential travellers.
We always do our best to reassure them that Jordan is not like its neighbours, however we recognise that in order to build up travellers' trust, they often feel more assured by speaking to people who have visited instead of those that live here.
This reassurance and the power of word of mouth is a huge step in beginning to bring tourism back to Jordan.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What makes Jordan an ideal business travel destination?
STEPHANIE TWAISSI: Jordan is a fantastic mix of history, culture and adventure; it combines the new and old, offering breathtaking and mysterious sights, high standard accommodation, excellent infrastructure and delicious cuisine.
Jordan really does have something to suit everyone. In terms of infrastructure, the country has almost all the big hotel brands you can think of [...]. All of these new hotels provide fully equipped rooms for conferences and banquets with specialised services seeking to cater to this sector.
In addition to the hotels, Jordan has the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre Managed By Hilton at the Dead Sea, and Zara Expo and King Hussein Business Park in Amman, along with many other smaller venues.
The fantastic thing is that depending on the conference, groups have a great choice of destinations – they can stick to the capital Amman, travel outside to the Dead Sea, hold an event at the gates of Petra at Mövenpick Resort Petra or head further south to Aqaba. […]
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What is your company's focus for the months to come?
STEPHANIE TWAISSI: There is also a growing trend in travel for eco-tourism. Our unique offering in the area of ecotourism builds on the back of JTB's work and ensures the tourist experiences Jordan in a multi-dimensional way as well as ensuring there is a positive impact for the local communities. [...].
We would like to see conference organisers build into their programme schedules a time to learn of Jordan's significance and culture [...].
Our vision is to see every visitor to our country build time into their schedule to spend time with the local people – whether that be eating, cooking or simply drinking a cup of tea, the importance of cross cultural exchange is vital to seeing Jordan grow as a chosen destination for all types of tourism [...].