Lizzie Porter, The Daily Telegraph, May 6, 2015
The removal of the 40 dinar (£37) fee is part of a series of changes to be introduced over the next few months as part of the government's aim to make travelling to Jordan “more convenient and affordable for people of all nationalities.”
All tourists who use a tour operator to arrange their travel to the Hashemite Kingdom will be exempt from the visa fee, provided that they spend a minimum of two consecutive nights in Jordan. They will still have to obtain a visa on arrival at the airport, but will not be charged to do so.
The situation is slightly more complicated for independent travellers. To avoid the visa fee, those making their own arrangements will be required to stay for three consecutive nights and purchase a “unified tourist site ticket”, the details of which are yet to be finalised.
Jordan’s tourism industry has suffered greatly as a result of conflict in neighbouring Iraq and Syria, although the British Foreign Office deems the vast majority of the country suitable for travellers, advising only against visiting a thin 3km strip of land by the Syrian border.
Amidst the tangle of conflict elsewhere in the Levant, foreigners have shunned Jordan’s holy sites, nature reserves and adventure tourism opportunities, as well as the Unesco World Heritage Site at Petra, where visitor numbers have halved since 2010 .
According to statistics from the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the numbers of foreign overnight and same-day (cruise ship, for example) visitors to Jordan fell from 8.2 million in 2010, prior to the Arab Spring uprisings, to 5.3 million last year.
The exact timescale of the fee changes has not been announced, although a spokesperson for the Jordan Tourism Board said that “everything will be finalised and in place by September.”
She added that the tourist ticket is likely to include entry to Petra and the Citadel in the capital, Amman. However, the requirement to buy the ticket to avoid the visa fee is likely to prove a point of contention, given that the 50 dinar (£46) entry fee to Petra may make it more expensive than the current visa cost.
Tour operators offering small group trips were ambivalent about how much the changes would increase visitor numbers to Jordan, as the visa fee is already waived for those travelling in groups of five or more.
Jim Eite, product director for Exodus, which runs small group tours to Jordan, said that, while it was encouraging to see Jordan taking steps to increase visitor numbers, the changes would have “minimal" impact.
Jonathan May, product manager at Explore, said he hadn't been made aware of the changes, and added that although it would not affect those travelling on small group tours, any price savings generally encouraged visitors. "In the long-term this change should have a positive impact on Jordan’s tourism numbers", he said.
Nayef Al-Fayez, Jordan’s minister of tourism and antiquities, said that the measures aimed to “encourage travellers to add Jordan to their next itinerary" and would help to promote the country as an accessible, safe, and inviting destination.”
The changes also include the waiving of the departure tax for all scheduled flights from Aqaba and Amman, on the condition that visitors purchase the tourist site ticket and spend a minimum of three consecutive nights in Jordan. However, how this exemption will be implemented is unclear, as Jordan’s 15 dinar departure tax is currently bound up in the cost of an airfare, and foreign tourists are not required to make a cash payment on departing Jordan.
The reason for retaining a 10 dinar charge for those crossing into Jordan over land also remained unclear.
Jordan has charged a 40 dinar visa fee for those travelling in groups of less than five since spring 2014, when the existing charge was doubled, even as tourist numbers fell.
The latest announcement comes as parties involved in Jordan’s tourist industry take measures to try to lure more visitors from overseas.
The flag carrier, Royal Jordanian, has announced discounts for flights bought as part of a package, while hotels at the Dead Sea have been offering promotional room rates to attract guests.
This article was written by Lizzie Porter from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.