The Kingdom’s total caseload has reached 471, the minister said, noting that a total of 91,666 coronavirus tests have been conducted in Jordan since the beginning of the crisis. Commenting on the reasons behind maintaining the curfew and keeping coronavirus-related restrictions in place, the health minister said that COVID-19 requires “particular caution” and specific measures at the borders to ensure the safety of all.
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The Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) discussed modern and innovative solutions offered by business entrepreneurs and start-up owners in the tourism industry. The JTB said that participants in several virtual conferences, organised by the Information and Communications Technology Association of Jordan, discussed means to promote tourism in the Kingdom during and following the recovery period from the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the virtual meetings, which were moderated by CEO Nidal Bitar, JTB Director General Abdulrazzaq Arabiat said that the tourism sector’s revenues in 2019 totalled $5.3 billion, before dropping to almost zero after the lockdown that started in mid-March to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The JTB is currently working on boosting domestic tourism through launching programmes for visiting several tourist sites, Arabiat said. Forty per cent of the cost of the programmes will be subsidised by the government, totallingJD10 million in support.
The JTB director general also said that the board is currently giving virtual tours for tourism purposes using 360-degree technology, in addition to providing smart applications by specialised entrepreneurs in the tourism sector.
Religious tourism is expected to recover after the coronavirus crisis, as Jordan is home to 42 religious tourist sites, he said, noting that the medical and adventure tourism sectors will be next to recover.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply, Tareq Hammouri, has announced that all economic sectors are allowed to reopen at their full production capacity starting Wednesday, provided that the percentage of Jordanian workers is not less than 75%.
During a press briefing at the National Center for Security and Crisis Management, Ha mmouri said that the even-odd license plate policy will be canceled as of next Sunday. Starting Wednesday 6th of may, restaurants will be allowed to provide handling services until 6 pm and home-delivery services until 8 pm and without being required totest all the workers for the virus, as they can only conduct random tests according to the conditions determined by the Minister of Tourism. Bakeries will also be allowed to sell bakery sweets as of Wednesday, provided that they are pre-packaged and packed in ready-to-sell packages.
“The government has postponed mulling reopening schools, kindergartens, nurseries, universities, colleges, cultural and training institutes, restaurants, cafes, sports facilities, places of worship, wedding halls, parks, game & entertainment centers, cinemas, festivals, conferences, and exhibitions companies,” Hammouri stated, afrirming that these sectors are only allowed to provide delivery and handling services. He confirmed that anyone who doesn’t wear masks and gloves will be prevented from entering any establishment or institution.
Jordan is one of the few countries that has “full control over COVID-19”, the government has exerted numerous efforts to sustain tourism and its future in the Kingdom – Tourism Minister Majd Shweikeh.
Shweikeh said the efforts began with the immediate stage to ensure the resilience of the sector, resolving critical issues, focusing on the sustainability of the sector and the labour force, with the support of the Central Bank of Jordan, the Social Security Corporation and the social solidarity fund.
The measures that followed the immediate stage focused on the short-term, the minister said, noting that once the lockdown is lifted and movement between governorates is possible again, the efforts will focus on reactivating domestic tourism.
“We will focus on everything; adventure, health, wellness and all kinds of tourism, domestically by incentivising and subsidising,” Shweikeh told The Jordan Times in a phone interview.
She noted that the government and stakeholders will work on encouraging people to visit tourist locations through acceptable rates by service providers. “The third aspect we are working on is digitalisation through virtual and augmented reality, as I said before there will be an online platform for oriental antiquities, the goal of which is digitalising for the purpose of monetisation, bringing income through the process,” the minister said.
Health and safety measures will be in place when domestic tourism is back, as there will be continuous disinfection of the locations and tourists as well as service providers alike will be asked to wear medical face masks and gloves, and also practice social distancing as part of a new culture and awareness, she said, noting that this will ensure the spread remains under control.
“We are working closely with tourism agents and different tour operators to make sure that we are ready once they lift lockdown in other countries, work will focus on measures at the airport, transportation and more through the ministry and all stakeholders:” Shweikeh said, noting that tour guides, transportation, local communities, restaurants, hotels and the whole tourism scene will be engaged to cater for domestic tourism.
As for international tourism, work is in progress on various scenarios that are directly related to lifting lockdown in other countries around the world as well as in Jordan, noting that observation and engaging is continuous.
Jordan Tourism Board highlighted Jordan as a ‘perfect destination’ for film enthusiasts, ‘Star Wars’ fans and lovers of travel, in honour of Star Wars Day, which falls on May 4.
In a joint statement shared with The Jordan Times, they highlighted the recent visit of a number of artists and designers who worked on various Lucasfilm movies and Disney films, who were invited to Jordan to experience the country, known for its world-class scenery, on a tour titled ‘Taking Jordan by Storm II’.
Arriving from the US were four artists and designers from movies spanning a 40-year period, starting in 1980 with ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ to the latest ‘Rise of Skywalker’ and ‘The Mandalorian’.
The travellers included concept designer for Lucasfilm Christian Alzmann, who was one ofthe designers of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, among other films; Jea n Bolte, the texture supervisor credited for four ofthe Star Wars Episodes and other Hollywood Blockbuster films; George Powell, contributing artist for the Disney film ‘Finest Hours’; and artist and musician Sandy Dhuyvetter, who is famous for her role in painting costumes for the Star Wars films.
After arriving from the US in December 2019, the travellers and the Ta king Jordan by Storm II team met at the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth.
After a day of rest, and a short stop to the Baptismal site of Jesus and Mt Nebo, the visitors visited some ofthe most acclaimed film sites within the country, starting with the ancient southern city of Petra.
Jean Bolte, first-time visitor to Jordan, remarked: ‘The dramatic moment when one emerges from the walk through Petra’s curved rock canyon to face the Al Kazneh [‘The Treasury’] is heart-stopping. No photos do justice to the feeling of emerging into that open space.’
Shortly after touring Petra, the group visited Aqaba, where they took the sailing ketch featured in the 2019 Disney film ‘Aladdin’ to Berenice Beach on the Red Sea.
The modern accommodations and means of transportation made it clear to all that Jordan was easy and comfortable to visit. The exquisite food of Jordan was a talking point at the table and en-route to every destination, read the statement.
Sandy Dhuyvetter, a return visitor to Jordan, was quick to comment that ‘life in Aqaba is the way life should be, with the easy access to a wonderful lifestyle that includes water and outdoor adventures’.
Wadi Rum, known as the Valley of the Moon, is where the team slept in Geodesic domes. There, they combed the film locations for clues of the over 60 films produced in Jordan.
George Powell shared his thoughts about Wadi Rum when he stated:1 could easily spend a month here exploring the incredible valleys and film locations. Jordan has far exceeded all my expectations’.
‘The Martian’ (2015), ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ (2016), ‘The Last Days on Mars’ (2013), ‘Theeb’ (2014), ‘Transformers: Revenge ofthe Fallen’ (2009), ‘May in the Summer’ (2014), ‘Prometheus’ (2012), and ‘All of the Money in the World’ (2017), originating in Hollywood, Bollywood and other regions, all made their wayto Jordan for filming, the statement said.
Near the end of the trip, the entourage spent a few days in the capital Amman, visiting the Citadel, the Roman Theatre, and the Royal Auto Museum and taking in the local street scene. One morning was spent visiting Jerash, ‘a must-stop’ for those who love Roman and Greek architecture.