AMMAN — Over 70 per cent of reservations in the country’s tourism sector have been cancelled in the wake of the Israeli aggression on Gaza, according to officials. Hamzah Haj Hassan, Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority tourism commissioner told The Jordan Times that over 70 per cent of reservations to Aqaba have been cancelled. “Over 70 per cent of pre-booked reservations for ferry tourism have been subsequently cancelled due to the aggression on Gaza,” Haj Hassan added. Bassem Ghalayeni, a board member of Jordan Society of Travel Agents (JSTA) conveyed the gravity of the situation to The Jordan Times, the entire tourism sector is currently on standby mode, facing an unprecedented challenge, he said. “The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has taken swift action by forming a committee comprising representatives from JSTA, Social Security Corporation, Jordan Tourism Board, private and public Sectors to address the challenge,” Ghalayeni added. Ghalayeni stressed that the primary objective of this committee is to address the critical situation and devise strategic solutions to counter the impact of the cancellations. “This move reflects the government’s commitment to supporting the tourism industry, which plays a vital role in Jordan’s economy,” said Ghalayeni. Ghalayeni highlighted that the committee held its first meeting, and the sector is awaiting recommendations that will hopefully support the industry. “We believe that the hit on the tourism industry might be stronger than COVID-19,” Ghalayeni noted. The comparison to the global pandemic underscores the repercussions the sector is experiencing due to the ongoing conflict, Ghalayeni explained. “The tourism industry, which was already grappling with the aftermath of the pandemic, now faces an additional and formidable challenge,” Ghaleni said. Sources within the hospitality sector, which preferred to remain anonymous, told The Jordan Times that despite the alarming situation, employee contracts have not been terminated “yet”. “This uncertainty adds to the mounting concerns within the industry as businesses grapple with financial strain and the uncertainty of future bookings,” one of the sources added. Meanwhile, tourism experts are urging travel agents to shift their focus towards encouraging domestic tourism and tapping into the expatriate community. “These avenues are critical to sustaining the hospitality sector during these challenging times,” Mohammad Khair, tourism expert told The Jordan Times. Khair added that domestic tourism and expatriates are crucial to maintaining the hospitality sector amid the current crisis. “Travel agents play a pivotal role in promoting and facilitating domestic travel, contributing to the sector’s resilience,” said Khair. As international travel faces disruptions, redirecting efforts towards local and expatriate markets becomes imperative for the survival of many businesses within the industry, according to Khair.

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