18 February, 2016

Travel sector concerned over 'lack of results' from promotional campaigns

Feb 18,2016 AMMAN -- The intensified efforts by the government and industry authorities to promote the Kingdom's tourism attractions have not yet had a positive impact on visitor numbers, according to sector leaders.

Feb 18,2016

AMMAN -- The intensified efforts by the government and industry authorities to promote the Kingdom's tourism attractions have not yet had a positive impact on visitor numbers, according to sector leaders.

Some sector representatives said on Thursday that the campaigns run by the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) are not targeting the right destinations to achieve the desired results, while others said campaigns should continue despite the challenges in the markets already targeted.

The Cabinet decided last year to increase the budget of the JTB to enable it to promote the Kingdom's tourist attractions in regional and international markets.

Campaigns launched last year included television and radio commercials, in addition to advertisements on billboards, taxis and train stations, in countries such as France, Germany and the UK.

For Zaid Naffa, the Jordanian consul in Budapest, short period campaign in each country is not enough to promote Jordan's tourism.

"We need sustainability and to be present all the time," Naffa told The Jordan Times over the phone from Budapest, adding that the country's tourism offering "is absent from the shelves of travel offices in Europe".

When potential tourists go to a travel agent's office, they find nothing about the country's attractions, according to Naffa.

"Promotion campaigns need follow-up... if we do not follow up, short campaigns will not be enough," he said.

The consul added that advertisements on billboards, taxis and in railway stations do not amount to a real campaign, but rather "these are only a reminder to potential tourists and a complement to sustainable campaigns".

For Khaled Nawafleh, president of the Petra Hotels Association, the pictures used on billboards deliver the message that Jordan is only Petra, desert and camels.

"This is not correct... the campaign should show the world that Jordan has more," Nawafleh said, suggesting that online efforts should be further intensified.

Both Naffa and Nawafleh stressed the need to have "packages" and charter flights available to provide trips to tourists at an affordable price.

"Aggressive campaigns... should be run in parallel with the packages that we already have," Naffa stressed, noting that promotional efforts will not achieve their goals without package tours being offered to the targeted tourists.

Individual or online reservations, he argued, will not make up 3 or 5 per cent of the total volume of tourists.

Citing Turkey as an example, Nawafleh said tour packages to Turkey are limited compared to Jordan, but visitors will eventually spend more money there.

He stressed that the benefit from visitors is not only what they pay for tickets and hotels, since other sectors will benefit as well.

In addition, promotion and marketing campaigns, Naffa said, should be sustainable, not only conducted in emergency situations.

The sector needs a long-term plan that focuses on sustainability, he added.

Target markets

According to Nabih Riyal, owner of an inbound tourism agency, the JTB campaigns are targeting the wrong markets.

"We are not receiving tourists from Europe. Why should we invest in campaigns there?" he asked.

Riyal, who voiced concern that some tourism offices might end up closing their doors and leaving Jordanians without jobs, said the focus should be on Arab and Far East markets instead.

Yet for Mohammad Samih, also the owner of an inbound tourism agency, European markets should not be neglected even if the number of tourists arriving from there is currently low.

Although he also voiced concern about the sector's losses, Samih said it is still early to judge the campaigns' effect.

Responding to these comments from sector representatives, JTB Managing Director Abed Al Razzaq Arabiyat said it is too early to judge the campaigns until after the tourism season that starts in mid-March.

He noted that travel agents asked the JTB to target consumers in the UK and France, and these are some of the markets covered by the campaign.

Arabiyat added that there will be campaigns in new markets, including China and Korea very soon, in addition to road shows in Arab countries.

As for packages for tourists, the official said these should be produced by tour agencies and not the JTB, which is in charge of promotion.

Last year, 4,811,352 tourists visited Jordan, a 9.7 per cent drop compared to 2014, when 5,326,501 visited the Kingdom.

Tourism revenues in 2015 stood at JD2.886 billion, a 7.1 per cent drop from JD3.107 billion in 2014.

© Jordan Times 2016