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Monday, 04 April, 2016, 12 : 00 PM [IST]

‘Jordan is as safe as India’ - Anil Trigunayat Ambassador of India to Jordan

Having been posted in Jordan for two years now, Anil Trigunayat, Ambassador of India to Jordan, throws light on different aspects of the Arab nation, namely safety & security, bilateral tourism and air connectivity in an interaction with Disha Shah Ghosh
Anil TrigunayatQ. With the ongoing tension in the Middle East region, how safe is Jordan as a tourist destination?
A.
  Jordan is the safest destination in the entire region, and also enjoys political stability. This can be attributed to the sound leadership, moderation and thinking of the people in the country and their way of living. All these factors combined together have given them a leverage, and the leadership of King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein and his father have been instrumental in building the strong base. All major powers and every country in the region want Jordan to remain that way. Some odd incidents may happen here and there which no one can prevent. However, Jordan is as safe as India. Jordan is taking possible steps to welcome Asian tourists, and Indians in particular. The King and citizens of Jordan are fond of Indians, and love to welcome them. Of course, travellers have to take the necessary and standard precautions that they will take anywhere else. I would like to see more Indians travelling to Jordan and treated with respect as Jordan has a plethora to offer.

Q. What steps should Jordan take to welcome more tourists from India?
A.
During the calendar year 2014, there were more than 55,000 Indians who visited Jordan; the country is a great destination as well as a source and that is why I recommended to the Indian government to extend e-TV to Jordan. Jordan was among the first countries to be included in the e-TV list because my job is also to promote tourism to India. I have suggested the Jordan government to get specialised groups from India because the Indian middle-class is the largest spender, and is willing to travel to offbeat destinations. Indians like to visit destinations where they are welcomed. Jordan should make Indians as preferred guests in the country by offering visa on arrival and not through tour operators alone.

I have suggested the Jordanian Tourism Minister and Jordan Tourism Board to launch a campaign in India that they are doing in Europe and elsewhere, and participate in trade activities in India, which will convey the right message. More Indians travel abroad than the number of tourists coming to India. Jordan used to welcome 7 million tourists, and India despite its huge geographical area gets only 7 million overseas travellers.

Jordan needs to market itself aggressively in the Indian market. Unfortunately, Royal Jordanian pulling out of India has not been a good move.

Q. What message do you want to send out to the Indian travel trade?
A.
Jordan is a great tourist destination. It has everything that one can think of —history, beautiful locations, Wonders of the World, UNESCO Heritage Site, great climate, the lowest point on earth, and the Dead Sea, which is therapeutic, making Jordan an excellent and exceptional destination for Medical Tourism. Jordan is easily accessible since the country is a small and the Dead Sea is its USP.  Jordan is run like Singapore despite being deficient in many resources. The tour operators, most of the hotel staff, tour guides, and locals employed in the tourism space speak English language, which is a huge advantage. One should come to Jordan to relax and explore. Every time one would discover new aspects of the country.

Tourism contributes 25% to the GDP of economy of Jordan. Indians on an average spend three to four room nights in Jordan. There are three to four Indian restaurants in the capital city of Amman, and the Arabic food in Jordan has a wide range of vegetarian options.

Q. Which segment should Jordan target in the Indian market?
A.
I believe it is time the Jordan Tourism Board gets some Bollywood films to shoot here. Jordan should follow the Swiss model to attract Bollywood film-makers to aggressively tap Bollywood. Everything from Mumbai to Jordan should be taken care by way of facilitation and  I believe Jordan can be the right location as far as film tourism is concerned. Krrish 3 was shot in Petra and the Roman theatre in Jordan. Several Hollywood films including the recently released Martians was shot here.

Q. Please comment on bilateral tourism promotion between India and Jordan.
A.
During the visit of the King to India in 2006, both countries signed a MoU on tourism which entails exchanges from both sides, and I am trying to create a twinning relationship between Petra and Taj Mahal, the two Wonders of the World. This will allow sharing archaeological experience and management. We also are bringing various tour operators from India, which works both ways. Last year was the 65th year of diplomatic relations between both nations, so every month we had an Indian cultural event in Jordan.

Q. Statistics on visas being issued?
A.
We normally issue 4,000 visas per year from the Indian Embassy in Jordan. But with the e-TV facility now in place, every month, the Embassy issues 200-300 visas. In 2014, 55,000 Indians visited Jordan during the calendar year. In 2015, the figures dipped because of the visa issues.

Q. How important is air connectivity to improve tourist numbers on both sides?
A.
We are trying to convince Royal Jordanian to resume direct operations to India. Air Arabia is planning to start operating economical flights to New Delhi and Mumbai this year. Many people travel to Tel Aviv on Royal Jordanian, as the airline is the only Middle East carrier operating direct flights to Israel. This route is a dedicated market for Royal Jordanian. Therefore, I feel resuming flights to India will work as an added advantage to Royal Jordanian. Currently, Indian travellers come to Jordan via Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which takes more than 12 hours along with a stop over, while Royal Jordanian’s direct service would take 5 to 6 hours.

Q. What about Indian MICE events being organised in Jordan?
A.
If one is a travelling to Aqaba and Petra, there is an attractive itinerary offered by the Aqaba Administration to welcome travellers and charters. The Aqaba Administration also takes care of their visa facility. I believe the major incentive for Indian travellers would be to offer visa on arrival. Secondly, Jordan should get more corporate entities to organise their events in the Dead Sea. An YPO organised a MICE event last year in Jordan, they brought their families along, which offered a huge boost to the tourism economy of Jordan.

Q. What is the focus of the Indian government for welcoming tourists from Jordan?
A.
Jordanians love India. We had about 2,500 Jordanians who studied in India. They always make it a point to go back to India. I am promoting India as  a tourism as well as a business destination in Jordan. There are 20 Indian textile factories in Jordan, and Indians are the largest buyer of phosphate and fertilizers from Jordan in addition to being the biggest investors here. We are aiming to promote business cum tourism promotion. Many Jordanians practice yoga and travel to India in that connection. We had celebrated International Day of Yoga last year with great local enthusiasm under the patronage of HRH Princess Rym Ali.

disha.shah@saffronsynergies.in
 
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