Sign Up for Our Daily Newsletter
From April 1-3, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) hosted its 2019 AdventureNext Near East conference in Aqaba, Jordan. Now held for the third year in Jordan, the event aims to educate attendees about the country and the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region; provide opportunities for professional development; and connect international media with local suppliers.
This year’s conference, held at Hyatt Regency Aqaba Ayla Resort, drew 58 buyers from six continents, 42 incoming tour operators and 30 media members.
“This is a very big leap forward; this is a very big accomplishment,” said Muna Haddad during the opening ceremony.
Haddad was emcee for AdventureNext Near East and is the founder and CEO of Baraka, a sustainable travel consulting service for governments, NGOs and the private sector.
“People have seen a side of Jordan that was more meaningful and more adventurous, and everyone is here to celebrate that,” she said.
Haddad discussed how adventure travel drives revenue for businesses that are often overlooked. She was followed by Manal Kelig, MENA Director for the ATTA and co-founder of Gateway to Egypt, a sustainable tour operator. Kelig detailed how the travel sector can create jobs for those unable to find employment and better the lives of local community members, while also providing travelers with authentic experiences and allowing them to see where and how their money is affecting change. Most important, she noted, is that adventure travel creates understanding and empathy.
Attendees had a range of panels and sessions from which to choose, including a keynote presentation from Celine Cousteau, a social and environmental activist, filmmaker and founder and executive director of CauseCentric Productions. During her talk, Cousteau discussed how the traveling public can move from knowledge to responsibility — “from ‘them’ to ‘us’” — and create change in the world.
“Travel and tourism is a privilege,” she said. “What are you going to do with it?”
Additional sessions covered topics such as travel photography and long-distance trails, along with a film screening of “Soufra,” a documentary that follows Mariam Shaar, a generational refugee who has spent her life in the Burj El Barajneh refugee camp outside of Beirut, Lebanon.
During the AdventureNext Marketplace — held in scheduled blocks throughout the event — outbound tour operators, wholesalers, travel advisors, editorial media and influencers were able to conduct one-on-one meetings with inbound tour operators and accommodations from Jordan and the Near East region.
Often, with mass tourism, only 15 percent of income stays in the destination; with adventure travel, 65 percent of revenue spent by customers stays in the destination. The ATTA is committed to help build momentum going forward; we’re committed to Jordan and to furthering our relationship with those here.
AdventureNext’s Impact During a press conference for attending media, Shannon Stowell, CEO of the ATTA, discussed the influence of AdventureNext Near East on Jordan’s tourism.
“When tourism starts in a destination, it takes a while for the business to actually build,” he said. “It may take some tour operators a year or two to get the product into their catalogs. Media stories tend to trickle out about a year later.”
However, he noted, as a result of the first two AdventureNext events, Jordan has seen $3.1 million in new business (total in-country sales) and 1,000 new travelers to the country. Considering all buyers since the inaugural 2017 event (both those who previously sold Jordan and those introduced to Jordan through the event), the total impact is $5.1 million (total in-country sales) and 3,500 new travelers to Jordan.
While the growth may be slower than in other destinations, Stowell pointed out that it’s more sustainable due to the type of travel being promoted.
“Often, with mass tourism, only 15 percent of income stays in the destination; with adventure travel, 65 percent of revenue spent by customers stays in the destination,” he said. “The ATTA is committed to help build momentum going forward; we’re committed to Jordan and to furthering our relationship with those here.”
Jordan on the RiseJordan’s tourism revenues have increased 8 percent, from $4.6 billion in 2017 to more than $5 billion in 2018. And the country’s tourism revenues in the first quarter of this year were up 5.2% over last year, according to data from the Central Bank of Jordan and the monthly statistical report of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. Additionally, in the first quarter of this year, the number of foreign visitors has increased by 33.3% and the growth rate of overnight visitors by 36%.
Visitation to Jordan’s iconic cities and sites has increased across the board from 2017 to 2018: Jerash recorded a 30% increase; Petra saw a 33% growth; Wadi Rum experienced a 36% increase; and Mount Nebo logged a 155% jump in visitors.
And the flow isn’t ceasing: Some 52 cruise ships are scheduled to visit Aqaba this year, which will bring more than 96,000 tourists to the area, according to the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA). While these sailings typically stop in Aqaba for just one to three days — with passengers exploring the “golden triangle” of Aqaba, Wadi Rum and Petra — they generally have a positive effect on various sectors of the tourism industry, says ASEZA spokesperson Abdul Mahdi Qatamin.
The impact of the recent 2019 AdventureNext Near East remains to be seen, but based on its research over the last two years, the ATTA forecasts $4.1 million in total in-country sales for Jordan this year, along with 1,450 new travelers to the country.
The DetailsAdventureNext Near Eastwww.adventuretravel.biz
Adventure Travel Trade Associationwww.adventuretravel.biz
Jordan Tourism Boardna.visitjordan.com