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Princess Firas: Jordan tourism has suffered from the conflicts in the region, not from the presence of the refugees

by - 01 December

How the conflicts in the neighbouring countries and the refugee crisis affected the tourism industry in Jordan?
The refugee crisis is perhaps the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time. But we shouldn't forget that this is about people at the end of the day. And that very tragic stories, human stories, happen every single day. We have been as welcoming as we can given given our resources and our abilities. Jordan has been home for many successive waves of refugees throughout history. We believe that these refugees have enriched our own society, they have brought with them culture, they have brought with them heritage, they have brought with them music, they brought with them business and and we have benefited as a country from this diversity of people and cultures and talents that we have had over the years.  This is not to say that it has not been hard. It has been very, very difficult. Our resources are very limited in Jordan, they have been stretched. The people have been really going above and beyond their abilities to be welcoming and to be hospitable to the refugees that have come to Jordan.
The presence of the refugees has not had an impact. What has affected us is the conflict in the region, the conflict in in Syria and Iraq,  the presence of the Daesh and the terrorists. And that is perceived by visitors and by tourists to be very close and so people have become hesitant about visiting the Middle East. And often Jordan has been marketed over the years more as regional destination and so the packages often include Lebanon, Syria, Jordan. That is where we have suffered: from the conflict itself but not necessarily from the presence of the refugees.
But we have been safe. We had been stable. Security and safety is a priority for His Majesty the King and for the Jordanian government. And people themselves believe in the importance of maintaining the stability and security of Jordan, that we have been very, very lucky to have survived and to thrive despite the instabilities that we see around us.

Why Jordan opens its borders in comparison to other countries in the Middle East?
It's part of the culture of who we are as Jordanians. We're always very proud of being hospitable, of always opening our home to anyone seeking shelter. And it's part of the Jordanian character and the Bedouin character of Jordan. That's something that is really part of the national identity in a sense of national pride. But I think the leadership in Jordan: His Majesty the King and the government, have set a very important example and they led from the very top to say that we have to give shelter to people who are in need. At the end of the day this is about human beings and Jordan has a lot of connections with other countries in the region. We have shared history, we have shared families, there are intermarriages with other countries around. So we feel a very strong, a very personal connection to the countries around us and to the people around us.  And that's something that has existed for many, many, many years and throughout history.

Do you see potential solution for the refugee crisis?
Very difficult question. But you have to be optimistic and you have to believe that the future brings a better world.  This will require serious efforts  by the international community. Everyone needs to play the role. At the end of the day you must bring conflict to an end, there must be a resolution. And we have to put  the well-being of the people ahead of anything else. I'm not a politician but I honestly believe that one has to be optimistic, one has to believe in a better future.

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