There's more to see than just Holy Land
Amman, Jordan — When the Jordanians lost the West Bank of the Jordan River to the Israelis during the 1967 war, Jordan lost control of a key tourism draw - the Holy Land. In the years since the 1967 war, the bridges that link the Jordanian east bank with the Israeli-occupied West Bank have remained open and the Jordanian tourist industry has continued to benefit from Jordan's proximity to Jerusalem and other religious and historic sites. To a great extent Jordan still serves as a ''gateway to the Holy Land.''
But the Jordanians have been working since 1967 to develop a tourist industry independent of the West Bank sites. In the past 16 years the number of hotels in Jordan has increased from 17 to more than 85.
Tourism contributes about 15 percent of Jordan's national income, an important share for a country with few resources and a chronic trade deficit. The government is encouraging increased private investment in east bank tourist sites, with the expectation of raising income from tourism from $572 million in 1980 to more than $1 billion by 1985.
The campaign has taken two tacks: stressing Jordan's archaeological treasures and promoting the southern port, Aqaba, as a winter resort. Jordan attracted about 1.5 million vacationers a year in the early 1980s, between 60 and 70 percent of them Arabs and about 13 percent Europeans and Americans. The 1982-83 season, however, has been far below expectation in both visitors and revenues. Officials ascribe the drop-off to Israel's invasion of Lebanon and to misconceptions that Jordan was in or near the line of fire.
''Whenever there is a political eruption or a war we find that tourism is the first industry to be affected,'' says Michael Hamarneh, director general of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.