UN agency pledges to help Jordan’s tourism recover from terrorist attacks
With tourism the second largest source of jobs in Jordan’s private sector and the second highest foreign exchange earner, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (WTO) today offered the Middle Eastern country whatever help it needs to recover from yesterday’s terrorist bombings of hotels in its capital, Amman.
“We were shocked and saddened to hear the news of the bombings and would like to convey our heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved families of the victims and to the Government of Jordan,” WTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli said in a letter to Tourism and Antiquities Minister Alia Hatough-Bouran on the suicide attacks, which killed dozens of people and injured more than 100 others.
He promised the minister “any aid you may need in assessing the situation or support that could help Jordan recover from this tragic incident.”
WTO Regional Representative for the Middle East Amr Abdel-Ghaffar stressed that tourism has many times proved its resilience. “I am confident in capacity of Jordanian tourism industry to recover quickly and strongly,” he said.
Latest tourism figures show a nine per cent growth in the first six months of 2005, after reaching 2.8 million in 2004, a 21 per cent jump over the previous year, contributing more than $803 million, about 10 per cent of Jordan’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The 148-member Madrid-based WTO, a global forum for promoting responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, made a similar offer in July to help Egypt’s tourism industry recover after terrorist bombings at its Sharm el-Sheikh resort. Earlier this year it also tried to mitigate the effects of the Indian Ocean tsunami, urging tourists to return to devastated countries like Sri Lanka, Maldives, Thailand and Indonesia, so as not to slow the recovery of an important economic sector.
It then called on the world’s media to take care in its coverage of destinations hit by the disaster so as to avoid a new “infodemic,” a repeat of the slump that hit Asian tourism two years earlier when an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed 774 people and infected more than 8,000 worldwide, the vast majority of them in China, led to a steep fall-off in travel.
Last month it sought to minimize the threat of a bird flu epidemic to global tourism – worth $622 billion last year spent by more than 763 million tourists – warning against unnecessary scaremongering. “Our message is not to overreact or panic, but at the same time not to underestimate the problem,” Mr. Frangialli said, calling on the media to refrain from reporting that creates unnecessary panic and on governments to issue travel advisories only as a last resort.