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    Fear of permanent closure looms large over travel agencies — sector representative-

    March 18, 2021
    tourism

    AMMAN — After a year of unresolved challenges, the Kingdom’s tourism and travel agencies face the prospect of permanent closure, laying off large numbers of employees, according to a stakeholder.

    “The sheer depth and breadth of pandemic-related effects on the Kingdom’s tourism industry will for sure make its recovery slower and harder,” Kamal Abu Diab, secretary of the Jordan Society of Tourism and Travel Agents (JSTA), told The Jordan Times on Wednesday.

    Abu Diab pointed out that comprehensive and sector specific plans, short- and long-term responses are needed to support an inclusive and sustainable recovery for the Kingdom’s tourism sector.

    According to government figures and statements, the tourism sector in 2019, represented 14 per cent of the national income, with a value of more than JD4 billion.

    Reflecting the urgency of the situation, Abu Diab pointed out that Jordan’s tourism and travel businesses are “at their last stages of survival, therefore what is really needed is some seriousness and commitment from the government”.

    Tourism in Jordan contributes billions of dinars to the local economy, provides high volume of employment, in addition to bringing in foreign currency, Abu Diab said.

    There are about 10,000 people employed in the sector, he noted.

    “We showed the sector’s challenges, but all the previous recommendations were neglected,” therefore the general board of travel and tourism agencies is determined to take its decision and totally shut down the sector by the end of March, if the government does not respond, he said.

    The latest preliminary estimates and scenarios show that the closure would continue until the first half of 2022, which would be followed by a slow and hard recovery, according to Abu Diab.

    “Our demands are reasonable and we hope to meet with the prime minister as soon as possible. The government needs to change its approach and methods in problem solving,” he said.

    Travel agencies are compelled to no longer operate. They are already closed, but now they will officially announce the closure of the sector’s agencies, Abu Diab said during a press conference at Amman Chamber of Commerce headquarters on Tuesday, noting that the sector’s operators have waited for a whole year, but the government did not respond.

    Regarding JSTA’s demands, a statement sent to The Jordan Times on Wednesday said that the government must commit to finding a mechanism for immediate financial aid for all affected travel and tourism agencies in Jordan, to ensure their continuity.

    The statement also added that the government should promptly implement the risk fund, which was established back in December 2020, worth JD20 million in external assistance, in addition to facilitating agencies’ access to soft credits, without interest.

    “There is no time left, and in case the government remains unresponsive, the agencies will unfortunately turn into a faltering industry,” he concluded.

    jordantimes

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