4 Ways Adventure Travel Can Revive Local Communities in Jordan

Our Senior Communications Officer Sira Bajjali breaks down the “Assessment of the Mountaineering Sector” report prepared by the economic team at USAID LENS to show how local communities can benefit from adventure travel.

Jordan has extraordinary potential and is almost unrivalled in the region for adventure travel. Culturally, socially, historically, politically and economically, the country remains stable and well placed to become a regional hub and globally competitive.

Based on the economic analysis conducted by the USAID LENS team, adventure travel could generate up to 100 million USD annually for the Jordanian economy. If combined with figures taken from ATTA’s report into the impact of adventure travel in Jordan, up to 66 million USD would remain within the local economy, representing an almost unrivalled impact in terms of local economic development and source of new income for under-served communities across the country.

Adventure travel in Jordan is gaining more prominence, especially with the newly completed Jordan Trail; a 600 Km hiking route that stretches from Um Qais in the north to Aqaba and the red sea in the South. The trail crosses the diverse landscapes of the country going through popular sites and 52 villages, creating jobs in rural areas while also preserving culture and heritage.

Tourism based around the development of adventure travel benefits from repeated visits to trails, but adventure travelers will not be returning if the locations are exploited and not well managed.

Well-managed trails running through communities can foster significant, sustainable economic activity through business development and tourism, specially that adventure travelers wish to engage directly in local cultures and communicate with people who live in that environment.

  1. Engaging home-based businesses

Adventure travel is built on, and around, local community engagement and experiences that explore cultures, foods and natural landscapes, therefore communities should be given the opportunity to develop an understanding of what adventure travel means, to highlight their concerns and priorities in their local areas and to engage in the development of any strategy around adventure tourism.

The first and most important goal of Jordan’s adventure travel industry should be creating harmony among the private sector and civil society around the mechanisms through which they can successfully and sustainably protect the environment, and engage with local communities, establishing links between home-based businesses (HBBs), guides and the tour operators to provide a holistic, integrated approach to the industry’s development.

Tourism has proven to be one of the main pillars of economic and social development; adventure tourism infuses money into local communities by creating permanent and temporary employment, circulating resources in local communities and encouraging entrepreneurial initiatives.

Small towns and villages can boom with the development of trails, as many essential services can be provided by HBBs such as hosting travel groups to supporting services like food, transportation and selling handicrafts and other local products, which will empower locals to become changemakers and social entrepreneurs who elevate entire communities and economies.

Jordan has recently passed new regulations under the building and zoning law that allow individuals to register and operate their businesses from home, which will create new opportunities for individuals to utilize their homes to provide different services for tourists, generate income and eventually contribute to the economic development of their communities.

2. Creating partnerships at the government and private levels

In almost all successful adventure travel industries worldwide, there is a society promoting and safeguarding the activities of adventure tourism, whether it is environmental preservation or management of firms operating in the industry.

In order to sustainably grow the industry, it is essential that there is a society of passionate individuals, companies and guides, or indeed any persons who are simply captivated with adventure tourism, who can take the lead on promoting and encouraging best practices.

Therefore, Jordan should work on establishing an association or body that can act as a guardian of best practice and responsible for the social, economic and cultural development of adventure activities. This in turn will lead to sustainable growth in local communities that benefit from adventure tourism activities.

Jordan must also focus on developing a sustainable investment framework for adventure tourism, which will eventually contribute to the formation of local economic development.

3. Legalizing businesses operating in the tourism sector

Many tour operators work in the industry without legal registration, especially those working in mountaineering, because there is no comprehensive legal system surrounding the industry with regards to hiking or trails freedom of movement across public lands, and protection of the sites.

In addition to that, operators trying to legalize are faced with long and unclear licensing procedures. Making the process of legalizing businesses in the tourism sector more efficient leads to creating more business and job opportunities in the local communities that they operate in.

Jordanian government can benefit by working with operators (both formal and informal) on establishing new laws around business classifications and registration fees, and, organizing workshops at the local level with all stakeholders to identify current gaps and constraints in legislation related to tourism planning, development, management and promotion.

Creating mechanisms to control the number of tourist activities and movement of visitors within protected areas is also an effective way to limit impacts on the ecosystem and help maintain the integrity and vitality of the site.

4. Minimizing the pressure that adventure travel creates on the natural environment

Demand for adventure travel activities has risen sharply. Since 2000, Jordanian demand for services in the adventure travel industry has risen in line with international demand.

As the industry grew in popularity, new operators began expanding and offering lower price tours that attracted excessive traveler numbers which threatens the natural environment, especially when visitors stray off established trails.

These activities damage the environment to the point that it would reduce the value of the trails and negatively affect the quality of visitors’ experience and tourism based around adventure travel in general.

Lack of coordination and proper management of sites and the operators, in addition to low confidence and trust across current stakeholders and associated parties in the adventure travel industry in Jordan result in poorly executed services that threaten the safety of travelers and the natural environment.

Therefore, collaboration of all stakeholders is of vital importance when it comes to strengthening the industry’s institutional and regulatory framework that will protect the environment and enhance the adventure travel experience.

To learn more about the adventure travel sector in Jordan, you can read the “Assessment of the Mountaineering Sector in Jordan” report prepared by USAID LENS which assesses the capacity, opportunities and barriers to developing adventure travel in the country.

For more information on the USAID Jordan Local Enterprise Support Project (LENS) and its activities, please visit its website www.jordanlens.org.

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