Ecotourism in Jordan is witnessing a multi-dimensional evolution from pure economic opportunities to a wider industry that embraces environmental and community-based development as core elements. Responding to the local, regional and international traveler’s preference, ecotourism provides a perfect platform for responsible sustainable businesses to utilize green investment and community empowerment in creating niche services and products.
The scarcity and uniqueness of natural resources in the MENA countries, including Jordan, are becoming a competitive advantage that opens new doors for eco and adventure tourism. Social and green innovation is another dimension that triggers new ideas for micro and small businesses supporting job creation and income generation for locals especially youth and women. While investors usually look outside for market trends, the ecotourism sector provides valuable opportunities at home.
Jordan – A Role Model
Jordan was one of first Middle East countries to realize the socio-economic value of its diverse and unique environment. Since the 1960s, Jordan took serious steps to protect its natural environment through the establishment of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) which is mandated to establish and manage protected areas. In 1993, and through the establishment of Dana Biosphere, Jordan positioned ecotourism as a key cluster that mainstreams economic and social development within environmental protection.
Today, Jordan has 10 natural reserves that provide the tourist with exceptional experience in enjoying nature and helping communities. Jordan’s experience in ecotourism has gained global recognition and became a model for partnerships between the government, NGOs and local communities.
RSCN figures indicate that its ecotourism projects generated JD1.5 million (around USD 2.1 million) in 2015, when 175,000 people visited the nature reserves, 65 per cent of whom were foreigners.
For ecotourism to flourish and achieve its development vision, several enablers need to be in place including soft and hard infrastructure. Governments, private sector and international agencies would need to work together to provide a conducive legal and regulatory framework, access to land, financing instruments, local human and institutional capacity development, attractive investment climate as well as convenient and affordable transportation. In addition, enabling more local innovation and social entrepreneurship would really be the added value to sustain the future of ecotourism in MENA region.