Marketing Aqaba: The making of a campaign

Report on media campaign to encourage domestic tourists to Aqaba, December 2005—December 2006

This is a report on the Aqaba media campaign (from December 2005 till December 2006) to encourage domestic tourists to visit the seaport city for their holidays. Over a 12 month period interviews, press releases and general features were written and published on Aqaba as a touristic resort and holiday destination for the home market.

The approach was journalistic rather than conducted as a public relations campaign. We wanted to come up with press material that would be appealing to different readers, believing that in order to encourage people to go to Aqaba, a good solid media campaign is required, and well-written articles for readers to enjoy reading and give them specific messages about Aqaba.

This meant visiting the city on different occasions, collecting information, meeting people, officials, hoteliers, members of the public and sellers and shop owners in Aqaba to get the feel of the place, and give credibility. About five separate visits were made, one was for two days, spending an evening there and the rest were day trips. On these occasions many people were spoken to, even workers from outside the city who lived in the city and went back to Amman every weekend.

These stories were English/Arabic

Content

1) Outline the different story ideas that were published through out the campaign;

2) Some of these were published as interviews

3) At the end of each story/interview we state the name of national dailies/weekly, magazines and dates in which the press materials appeared in;

4) Interviews

5) Specific quotes are provided under different story ideas;

6) Three stories written as background information.

Name of press release/article

Rediscover Aqaba campaign promises to bring local tourists to the sunny resort

This press release signals the start of the 12-month media campaign to introduce Aqaba to ordinary Jordanians, and make them visit the resort city more often. There were different quotes from the then ASEZA Chief Commissioner Nader Al Dahabi. The aim was to make Aqaba as the premier tourism destination for the home-market, to increase the length of stay of home holiday-makers and show Aqaba as a great place for anytime of the year. “Our aim is to show that Aqaba is just as much fun in winter as it is in summer, and we want to turn the months of October, November, January and February into blustering seasons for the domestic tourists as these are great for Jordanian families wishing to experience the pleasant warm weather, the beach and the good and cheap but quality shopping in its growing malls,” says Al Dhabi. Its developed infrastructure, and different cultural and environmental terrains in the middle of modern amenities of hotels, coffee shops, restaurants and cinemas gives the visitor a stark contrast between high modernism and valued traditionalism. The release also states that the campaign will show Aqaba to be a staging post to see the southern part of the Kingdom like Wadi Rum and Petra. “For the businessman, and the executive in Amman, Aqaba can be a very good business deal, and I urge national companies to come and hold their MICE activities in palatial surroundings, it is here were they can do business and relax at the same time,” pointed out the Chief Commissioner. Articles on MICE tourism in Aqaba were also be published in the campaign to emphasize the distinct offerings Aqaba has for national businesses. However, these articles were within the overall campaign of seeing Aqaba as an all-rounded touristic hub for all Jordanians.

National daily newspapers and a weekly and a portal

These are extracts from the press release that was published in full by all national daily newspapers in Jordan. The release appeared in Al Rai (21 December, 2005); AD Dustour (25 December, 2005 front page, picture in color); Star (22 December 2005); Al Ghad (21 December, 2005); Arab Al Youm; These newspapers have websites which the press release was posted on, also posted on Jordan DevNet website in Arabic,( 28 December 2005) .

Name of press release/article

Aqaba Reborn and Ready for Tourism

This is a feature designed to situate Aqaba as a prosperous, booming city with much touristic attraction and many visitors flocking to the city with high hotel occupancy rates. The positioning of Aqaba as a tourist hub falls within the Jordan National Tourism Strategy 2005-2010 unveiled by the government. And in line with this there is a “Tourism Marketing Strategy for Aqaba, 2005-2010 which outlined its plan to increase the number of tourists to the city to 2 million through short-, medium-, and long-term stages that starts with attracting domestic tourists and increase the high rate of consumer spending there and attracting European/international tourists which is happening at the moment.

National daily newspapers and a weekly

This press release appeared in Al Rai (25 January, 2006); AD Dustour ( 26 January, 2006); Star (26 January, 2005); Al Ghad (5 February, 2006); Arab Al Youm, (24 January, 2006).

All had pictures of Aqaba and some in color; Al Ghad most beautiful.

Name of press release/article

Aqaba resurfaces on the local shopping scene

The aim of this press release was to encourage domestic visitors to go to Aqaba for some of their duty free shopping. There are quotes from some people who frequently go especially to shop, and there are quotes from sales assistants who work in shops there. The aim is to paint Aqaba as a shopping haven but to do so not in a "PRish" way through the eyes of the people, where readers would enjoy a good story.

National daily newspapers and a weekly

This release appeared in Al Rai ( 7 February, 2006); AD Dustour (17 February, 2006); Al Ghad (7 February, 2006); Arab Al Youm, (7 February, 2006).

Again the press release appeared with pictures of Aqaba and sometime in color with Al Rai and AD Dustour having nicer pictures.

Name of press release/article

Aqaba relaxation escapades attract local tourists

The aim here was to show Aqaba as a relaxation escapade attractive for the local tourists. The aim was also to show that it is very convenient to get there for everyone especially to the tourist. There are directs quotes from city officials (Ghassan Nasser) as well as members of the public who go to Aqaba to give the story elements of authenticity and credibility. We felt the ordinary public, and their quotes provided a good marketing technique to encourage more tourists from other parts of the city to come to Aqaba. In between this there are long description of the city's Plaza, good cafes, restaurants, wide roads and open gardens. The quotes from the public are authentic, and the many people we talked to did actually give such a description of Aqaba.

National daily newspapers and a weekly

This release appeared in Al Rai (29 March, 2006); The Star (9 March, 2006); Arab Al Youm, (February, 2006).

Name of press release/article

Companies eye Aqaba for MICE activities

This release was made in a form of an appeal by Commissioner for Investments and Economic Development in the Aqaba Special Economic Authority Saleh Kilani inviting companies, businessmen, and top executives to hold their ‘meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) activities in Aqaba. MICE tourism is a growing business in Jordan and the Middle East, and it was thought that this would be the time to make such an appeal because of the end of a financial year and the start of another, and companies would be looking for palatial-style surroundings to hold their meetings and big annual conferences. Because of its rapid growth city officials are banking on Aqaba to become a big venue for local, regional and international business. The article points out to the importance of relaxation that is associated with hard, grueling business. “Going off on a trip in the desert or sun-bathing on the beach are a good way to get back to the conference in an excellent and relaxed mood for listening and taking tough decisions, Ghassan Nasser, Tourism Division Head at ASEZA points out.

National daily newspapers and a weekly

This release appeared in Al Rai ( 6 April, 2006); AD Dustour ( 29 March, 2006); Al Ghad (28 March, 2006);The Star (30 March, 2005); Arab Al Youm, (7 April, 2006).

Interview

Best practices ensure quality tourism service in Aqaba

The adoption of best practices especially in the hotelier and catering sectors ensure high quality standard tourism. This is basically an extended interview with ASEZA's Chief Commissioner Nader Al Dahabi. He talks about what we mean by best practices—the adoption of means, methods and behavior—to offer quality service to tourists, pointing out AZEZA is currently carrying out a full training program in the city to ensure only the best is offered.

National daily newspapers and a weekly

This release appeared in Al Rai ( 5 April, 2006); AD Dustour ( 13 April, 2006);

Name of press release/article

Aqaba….the underwater experience

This article is an informative one on diving in Aqaba through the eyes of Ahmed Saqfalhait. It's an easy read of Ahmed going to Aqaba on a coach, booking into a hotel and spending the next two days diving. We get the feel of the Aqaba Gulf, the treasures it holds, and the different dive sites around.

National daily newspapers and a weekly

This release appeared Al Ghad (19 April, 2006); Arab Al Youm, (18 April, 2006); The Star, (20 April, 2006); AD Dustour, (19 April, 2006). From now, AD Dustour, a national daily newspaper begins to give the Aqaba PR campaign a high profile. The diving story for instance was spread across half a page, with big pictures and in color, which is an unexpected plus for the campaign by AD Dustour.

Aqaba lures families into magical simplicity

This is a general feature about a family of brothers, their wives, sisters and their children going on a holiday together to Aqaba. It's very descriptive of how they got there, how they got into their hotel, the beach and the swimming. Then the evening is also spent together at one of the Aqaba restaurants, and an enjoyable walk back to the hotel. Again, the feature is made in an easy pace for people picking up the newspaper to read.

National daily newspapers and a weekly

The Star (27 April, 2006) put this story at the bottom of its front page; Ad Dustour, (30 April, 2006); Arab Al Youm (27 April, 2006);

Interview

Meeting the tourism target: An interview with Saleh Kilani, commissioner for Investment and Economic Development at ASEZA

This is a full interview with Saleh Kilani. He talks about the level of investments coming into the ASEZA region, the fact the Aqaba is a part of a 'golden triangle', the growing status of Aqaba as an international tourist resort, and the importance of the private sector.

Business magazine (monthly)

Venture magazine, (May 2006).

From now on stories about Aqaba began to resurface by themselves. We believe this has been due to the print media campaign which we have initiated, especially because from now on more features are carried rather than news. Take for instance the following story:

(Rough Translation): Aqaba fishermen: 'We left the sea, but it is still in our blood'

National daily newspaper

AD Dustour, (12 May 2006).

'Golden triangle' unlocks treasures of Jordanian mystery

In its domestic campaign ASEZA has been trying to promote the ''golden triangle", the idea being that whilst in Aqaba many can enjoy going to Wadi Rum and Petra. Consequently these have become branded as the "three destinations in one"; it’s a unique tourism product to market, while there are quotes about the idea by Saleh Kilani, Ghassan Nasser and Abdel Atheem, a taxi driver in Aqaba and again, Ahmed Saqefalhait who talks about camping in Wadi Rum. There is another quote by Kilani saying: “The golden triangle idea is becoming more and more exciting judging from the testimonials the Tourism Division receives from group and individual visitors who post their impressions on some of the travel websites,” points out Al Kilani.

National daily newspapers and a weekly

The Star (4 May, 2006) gave this article about a quarter of a page spread on page 3; Arab Al Youm (7 May, 2006); Al Ghad, (4 May, 2006)

Name of press release/article

ASEZA calls on tour operators to rally for local tourism in Aqaba

As can be noticed we used journalistic techniques because we thought it would be the best thing to push the media campaign go forward to induce domestic tourists to Aqaba. We put it thus: "Officials at the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) call on tour operators to promote Aqaba to the local tourists as the seafront city embarks on a series of unprecedented investment projects to leverage its tourism industry." Then Tourism Chief Ghassan Nasser called on local Jordanian operators to develop special tour programs for locals to Aqaba and the Golden Triangle, which includes Petra and Wadi Rum. “As we move forward with our efforts to market Aqaba locally, I believe the time has come to involve tour operators in promoting local visits to the sea city,” says Nasser. The main goal, observers say, is to develop a sustainable local tourism industry in Aqaba were tour operators play a major role with ASEZA and other concerned government entities. There were quotes from many other tour operators.

National daily newspapers and a weekly

The article was published in The Star (11 May, 2006); Arab Al Youm (16 May, 2006); Al Rai, (16 May, 2006); AD Dustour, (19 May, 2006); Al Ghad, (22 May, 2006).

Name of press release/article

Aqaba training workshops bring the best in tourism

This feature concentrated on the issue of local training in Aqaba to make the local community more involved in creating successful tourism development for the city. Through a full interview with the Tourism Events and Coordination Officer in the Tourism Division of ASEZA, the article shows how training programs are being developed targeting the young about the importance of training in the tourism sector to create a good, strong local economy. Two programs—the Aqaba town guides for girls and taking school pupils around to show them the tourism projects in the city to liven their interest to enter the sector are talked about among the many that are expected to be made by ASEZA. The pupils for instance were introduced to different aspects of the hotel business including the kitchen and the laundry, and of the many jobs in the catering industry including becoming a chef, and/or a food and beverages manager, which are both well-paid occupations. The objective has been to show there are many jobs in the tourism sectors and students can build a career for themselves by entering them.

National daily newspapers and a weekly

AD Dustour, (16 June, 2006); Arab Al Youm (12 June, 2006); (Star, 15 June, 2006).

Interview

ASEZA: Facilitator and an active partner in development

Interview with ASEZA's Commissioner for Economic Development and Investment Affairs, Saleh Al Kilani. He re-emphasizes the point about incoming investments in Aqaba, the rapid expansion of the tourism sector, ASEZA's relationship with the private sector and its role in generating investments.

National daily newspapers and a weekly

Interview published in the form of feature article in The Star, (29 June, 2006); A shortened version of this interview also appared in Al Arab Al Youm, (3 July, 2006).

Interview

Best practices ensure quality tourism service in Aqaba

A full interview with ASEZA's Chief Commissioner Nader Al Dahabi who talks about the importance of best practices for the tourism sector in Aqaba for the visitors, stressing that best practices benchmark quality, that of course involve much training which the commissioner always talks about. This is an exclusive interview in English; it was previously carried in Arabic language newspapers.

A national daily

Appeared in the Jordan Times, (30 June, 2006).

Name of press release/article

Aqaba, enjoying the 'Red Sea' culture

This is a feature designed to show that there is a rich culture in Aqaba through the city's ambiance, location on the sea, good food and good music and special Aqaba soft drinks. It’s a culture based on the blue sea, but at the same time it’s a culture and a civilization that extends all the way to different places along the Red Sea but it's also a natural part of Jordan.

National daily newspapers and a weekly

AD Dustour gave this feature a prominent place on its pages on (23 July 2006); it was in color and had a nice picture designed to make people more aware of the story and more importantly read it; The Star published on (27 July, 2006); and so did the Al Arab Al Youm ( 25 July, 2006).

Interview

Laith Al Moghrabi on winged migration to Aqaba

This is a question-and-answer interview with Laith Al Moghrabi of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature. Ad Dustour gave the interview half a page in color with three big pictures which was generous of them. The interview centered on the fact that Aqaba is a resting place for migratory birds, and made to give another character to Aqaba for the specialist to watch and enjoy.

A national newspaper

Interview published in Ad Dustour, 5 August 2006

Name of press release/article

Aqaba, new frontiers for travel connoisseurs

This is a feature on the specialist sports that one can take, if so interested when he is on holiday in Aqaba, whether scaling mountains, diving, bird-watching to name but a few activities, besides the sunshine, the snail-walks and the virtuoso escapades in Aqaba's southern beach. These are considered as daring activities which more Jordanians are taking a liking to. Most of these activities are within the city contours and therefore easy to enjoy.

National daily newspapers and a weekly

AD Dustour provided an excellent feature in its inside pages of the story. It spread it across half a page in full color with pictures as well as two photos; Al Ghad (15 August, 2006) had a smaller item that spoke of the importance of adventure sports to lure local tourists to Aqaba; Star (17 August, 2006) carried the feature in full and so did Al Arab Al Youm (19 August, 2006).

Name of press release/article

Life Under-Water

Feature article made about diving in Aqaba, interviewing two young divers who go to Aqaba just to explore its blue waters and look at its coral reefs. The feature was splashed across four pages in color with many pictures. The feature included information about Aqaba's best diving places as well as the different types of mammals and fish in the Aqaba Gulf.

Local travel magazine

I celebrating Jordan, issue ( August 2006)

Name of press release/article

Aqaba, a place for shopping for those with middle and low incomes

The feature talks about the people who travel from Amman and the other regions to Aqaba just for lower price, good quality shopping. Direct quotes are from different people who go to Aqaba and those who are working there. These are made especially to encourage people to go to Aqaba and buy more consumer durables.

National daily newspapers and a weekly

This story appeared in Ad Dustour on ( 15 September, 2006).

Name of press release/article

All roads lead to Aqaba

Feature article: Its objective was to show that for the domestic tourist there are many ways to get to Aqaba from Amman especially and the north generally. The story however concentrates on traveling to Aqaba by coach from three points in Amman, the amenities provided, the cost as well as a number of quotes from different people. Before this article was written a fair amount of research had to be made which meant going to the bus stations and talking to different people to make sure that a story can be developed, properly formed and be read by the general public.

National daily newspapers and a weekly

The lay out in Ad Dustour (21 September, 2006) was good for most of the campaign. They actually had their own headline, with 'all roads lead to Aqaba' as a kicker. The Star published on (28 September, 2006); and Al Arab Al Youm (22 September, 2006).

Interview

'Discover Aqaba': A campaign for the domestic tourist

Feature interview with head of the Tourism Division at ASEZA Ghassan Nasser stating the importance of Aqaba to local tourists who should go down to the city to sea its distinctive features and attributes. He also talked about the fact that Aqaba is now a special economic zone with good shopping facilities for the local consumer, saying the authority regards the private sector as a strategic partner for growth in Aqaba.

National daily newspaper

Interview published in Al Arab Al Youm, (29 September, 2006)

Name of press release/article

Aqaba's newest booklets definitely add color to your holiday

This article was written in a form of a feature designed to appeal, of someone sitting on one of the benches in Hamamat Al Tunisiyya Street in Aqaba and going over the brochures, having got them from the Aqaba Welcome Center. Her name was Samia who goes to Aqaba for a week every six months and is always on the look out for new brochures of things to do in Aqaba. The leaflets are glossy and readable. She reads while her family wait for her in the hotel because they are still getting ready to go out and explore. The new brochures will give them something to think about.

National daily newspapers and a weekly

The article appeared in The Star (12 October, 2006), Arab Al Youm, (20 October, 2004); and Al Ghad (2 October, 2006).

Newspapers writing on their own

Two important things happened on October 2006: Newspaper journalists started writing articles on their own with nearly all (AD Dustour, Al Rai, Al Ghad, and Arab Al Youm) taking part in campaign by themselves. By putting light on different issues, these articles came to serve the objectives of the campaign which is to get more Jordanians to go to Aqaba. Most prominent of these newspapers is AD Dustour, writing in the same featurish way as adopted by Write Labs..

These include (rough translation: Fishermen: Working harder in Ramadam in effort to make more money, AD Dustour, (3 October, 2006); The Hamamat Al Tunisiyya Street in Aqaba: Magic of the sea, great flowers and magnificent design, AD Dustour, (5 October, 2006); Ramadani Traditions: The dinner of the deceased and the fishermen eat on the beach, AD Dustour, (7 October, 2006); The palm dates in Aqaba: Many uses, nourishment and good for the environment, AD Dustour, (13 October, 2006);

And there was also Aqaba: A City that does not Sleep in Ramadan, Arab Al Youm, (3 October, 2006). Al Rai did well for Aqaba in October. It had a one-page investigative feature on infrastructural development and construction in the ASEZA area, (Al Rai 7 October, 2006); Later that month it had Al Aqaba, a City that does not Sleep, with a kicker of an Investment Tourism Project, Al Rai, (29 October, 2006).

Al Ghad became another important leader from October onwards. We contacted their beat tourism journalist Rasha Tubaileh about speaking directly to officials in Aqaba such as Commissioner Kilani and Ghassan Nasser, and she began to get direct quotes from them about the tourism situation in Aqaba and the domestic tourism campaign. One large article Aqaba and Dead Sea During Eid: 100% Bookings (Al Ghad, 19 October, 2006) started on the front page of Markets and Finance section and was splashed inside across half-a-page.

The Tourism page in Al Ghad appears every Thursday, and from now on Aqaba officials can regularly see their names there, if there is a story on Aqaba. The reporter is very cooperative.

Name of press release/article

Aqaba Waters Through the Looking Glass

This is a feature story about one man and his son who travel to Aqaba, have a swim in the sea, and travel on a glass boat around the sea shore of Aqaba, and talk to the captain while they are at it. The feature also talks about the price haggling with the captain, looking at Aqaba and its mountains from the sea, and more importantly looking at the corals and the other sea life activity from the glass opening at the bottom of the sea.

National daily newspapers and a weekly

Appeared in The Star (16 November 2006); Arab Al Youm (13 November, 2006).

Name of press release/article

It's Cruise Liner Galore for Aqaba

This piece is on the increasing numbers of cruise liners coming to Aqaba in the past few years, and therefore talks about the growing benefit of this industry to the Aqaba, port, the local economy and tourism sector in Jordan. This feature is actually based by a study that was commissioned recently by ASEZA to show the great potential of cruise liners to the southern region of the Kingdom, as visitors have the option of spending the night in Petra and Wadi Rum as part of an exotic holiday and therefore contributing to the "golden triangle" idea.

National daily newspapers, a weekly and a portal

Story appeared in Al Rai (26 November, 2006), Al Ghad (23 November, 2006), Arab Al Youm (24 November, 2006), The Star, (30 November, 2006). Because of its touristic and economic importance, this article was published on AMEInfo, a Dubai-based website on 5 December, 2006. It will be published in the I Celebrating Jordan monthly in its February issue.

Name of press release/article

Aqaba resurfaces on international tourism map

This story is still to be published by local newspapers, however, it deals with the international marketing of Aqaba, and the things that have been made by Aqaba officials in the international market to make the city a brand name. ASEZA Chief Commissioner Nader Dahabi talks at length on the international marketing to bring tourists to Aqaba from all over the world, and Europe especially. A full interview also by the Chief Commissioner appeared in the I Celebrating Jordan magazine in February, 2007.

Interviews made for background information

1) “Campaign to bring Aqaba closer to your doorstep,” ASEZA Chief Commissioner says.

2) Interview with Commissioner for Investment and Economic Development, Saleh Kilani

3) Interview with Tourism Division head Ghassan Nasser

4) Interview with General Manager of a Five-Star Hotel

Quotes for different stories

Aqaba Welcome Center

Lubna Kabariti

Lubna, who has a BA in Modern Languages (English, French, Spanish) from Yarmouk University, said she had been told by foreign visitors they found Jordanians very friendly, much more so than people in the surrounding countries like Egypt, Syria, or even Lebanon, although we are all Arabs, excluding the Israelis that is! Many foreigners come inside for advice on where to go and what to see for their activity, enjoyment and eating places.

Shopping experience

Nimer Abdel Latif from Amman

“Aqaba is a true shopping experience,” says Nimer Abdel Latif, who regularly visits the city on weekends from Amman. Because of its special free zone status consumer prices in Aqaba are 30 percent to 40 percent cheaper than anywhere else in the Kingdom, points out an Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority official in a recent press statement.

Firas Al Maaitah, sales assistant in a shoe shop in Aqaba’s City Center

“More and more people are starting to come here just to do their shopping in a leisurely pace,” he says. “At the moment, the majority of shoppers come here on the weekend, Thursdays, Friday’s and less in Saturday’s, on these days the City is sprawling with shoppers from all over the Kingdom.”

One marketing expert

“As more and more people get to know of the bargains through different media campaigns, more locals would be willing to see Aqaba as an attractive proposition for some of their essential purchases.” “They are actually becoming Aqaba marketers. Such marketing tool is being made through word of mouth and will likely continue in the immediate-, medium- and long-term future. Their relatives, neighbors, and friends will catch on soon and start making more frequent trips to Aqaba.”

Relaxation

Fatina Birmawi

“Aqaba can truly be described as the tourist resort for Jordanians, its quite, pleasant, has light traffic and its good weather all-year-round makes it ideal for any visitor, Jordanian or otherwise, to have a great holiday,” says Fatina Birmawi, who, with her family, makes her trip to Aqaba twice a year.

Yosef Odeh

“It has truly changed, and developed, so scenic from when I was last here, and if I didn’t have a house in Amman, I would definitely contemplate moving here,” he points out. “As it is I would definitely keep coming here for family relaxation.”

Hazem Al Dawood

Hazem Al Dawood from Fuheis, comes here for the weekend. “This is actually the first time I come here in 10 years, I came for the weekend with the whole family, we love it, it so peacefully.” Al Dawood has family in Aqaba, but said he was staying at one of the city’s Two-Star hotels which was very pleasant. “I am actually very seriously thinking of locating to Aqaba, there is a boom here it the moment, and it’s just a matter of time before I can get a job, he says. Meanwhile he will continue to come to Aqaba, the prices are reasonable, in fact more or less the same as in Amman he says. “Its very good for the children, life has a quiter pace than says Amman, and you don’t need to be worried over the safety, Dawood added.

Mohammad Wassif, Glass boatowner

“If you were to brand Aqaba, it would be for its sunny beaches, smooth water currents, diving, snorkeling and sailing through its waters,” says glass boatman Mohammad Wassif, who spent the last 10 years ferrying passengers from one end of Aqaba to the other. He says he gets quite a number of people, especially in groups, who want to see Aqaba from its waters. “Right from here—the sea—you get a full view of Aqaba, its mountains, its beaches, its seaport, it’s a panoramic view that people will remember.” But riding the boat is one thing, marooning the beach is quite another. Take any weekend, and it’s full of domestic tourists, individuals, men and women, young and old, families, coming from all over the country, either booking in hotels in the city or coming for the day. "They come together, and if they are six or seven then it becomes easier to share the cost, literally everyone who comes to Aqaba has a ride on the glass boats, it’s a great family affair," Wassif says.

Lutfi, coffee vendor

“Many people come here just by themselves or through groups on the weekend just to get away from the busy city life, here they can be themselves, even if they just stay on the beach, talking, wondering, grimacing ” says coffee and tea vendor Lutfi Omar, who is situated next to the Aqaba Castle and the Arab Revolt Plaza. Omar loves the sea and can’t get away from it, after working on ships for the last 34 years. The sea, he says, invigorates the mind and brings new life to people, they become more animated, less constrained, and talkative. “Maybe it’s the smell of the sea water, that is pleasing to the nostrils, and that’s why also the people around here are always smiling, in a relaxed mood, in contrast to those of Amman who are always tense, but when they come down here their mood soon changes, they become so enchanted with the water that they spend all hours of the day and night just on the beach,” Omar continues. I do this for fun,” he says. “I come here every day not to sell but because I love the sea, it is my life”.

Abdel Athim, taxi driver in Aqaba

Abdel Athim, that’s the only name he would give, was quite nice and talkative, pointing to the importance of visiting such places as Wadi Rum. “You have to get there through a specially hired Jeeps.” With my simplicity I thought Wadi Rum were the mountains we saw on both sides of the highway, 75 kilometers to or from Aqaba. “No, there are lots to see further inside, the Wadi actually stretches about 25 kilometers inside the desert and its on special trips through Jeeps and camels, and some people stay the night there, so much to see.” As we reached the first roundabout of the city, we looked beyond to the right and he pointed to Eilat. “Many Israelis come here,” I asked. “Matter of fact yes, but most of them are Arabs, they just cross over, they come here on shipping trips, mostly day-trips, it’s much cheaper here than it is over there, and they can buy whatever they want and go back.”

WriteLabs member and another taxi driver

I dared not walk further, although the road downwards looked exciting, but instead walked back of what I thought was a long struggle, gratefully sat on one of the benches for 15 minutes (they don't exist in Amman would you believe?)—went to the Aqaba City Center via a taxi, the driver, told me he had to make a detour to pick up his son to take him somewhere; as a gesture I think, he took me to a pharmacy to get a Medron Extra for a headache which I was grateful, and then made his way to the City Center through an empty road—the road that led to Aqaba—talking monosyllabically, “this is the hospital”, “this is the fire department”, very exciting, I am sure tourists would love that I thought!

Ahmad Hisham, graphic designer

But there are certainly lots of other sea sports for all those interested, and more and more people especially those who work in professions that demand mental concentration are increasingly coming to Aqaba to pursue their favorite water sports. Graphic designer Ahmed Hisham is one of them. “Aqaba’s smooth water currents makes it ideal for diving, snorkeling and sailing,” a regular visitor who especially comes from Amman to indulge in his favorite sport diving says. “I have a passion for diving, and there are many diving clubs in Aqaba to coach the uninitiated, but for me as well these sports are excellent for getting you out of the office, and into the sea to move every inch of your limbs. It’s an excellent form of relaxation to rejuvenate body and mind, and gets you back in shape again for the nerve-racking working awaiting you in the office,” adds Hisham.

Waiter in cafe

"The City Center actually livens up during the weekend, and people from all over the Kingdom come to shop, with some staying in local hotels over the weekend, but during the week, it goes into a very quiet mode," he added, “but it moves again during the weekends—Thursdays, Fridays and to a certain extent Saturdays. On these days people actually book in hotels in Aqaba.

Mice Tourism

AZEZA Commissioner Saleh Kilani

“With all the infrastructure in place, we invite Jordanian companies, businessmen and top executives to hold their ‘meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE)’ in Aqaba,” says the Commissioner for Investments and Economic Development in the Aqaba Special Economic Authority Mr Saleh Kilani. With the coming of the end of the financial year for Jordanian companies, insurance agencies, banks and brokerages, these financial institutions are being asked to come to this southern touristic resort to hold their annual conferences in palatial-style surroundings which starts from March onwards.

Tourism Division Head Ghassan Nasser

“These hotels have large conference halls and small meeting rooms and the facilities to hold specialized professional business venues and gatherings for every kind of discussion and interaction,” points out the Tourism Division head at ASEZA Ghassan Nasser. The meeting venues are routinely equipped with projectors, data-shows, big screens and flipcharts to make easy proceedings for the attendees.

Tourism experts say Aqaba has ideal surroundings to vent off steam and pressure which businessmen, shareholders and top executives are subjected to in these high-powered conferences. “Going off on a trip in the desert or sun-bathing on the beach are a good way to get back to the conference in an excellent and relaxed mood for listening and taking tough decisions,” Nasser points out.

Former JITOA Executive Director Bashiti

MICE activities ensure that Aqaba can become a “boutique destination” for the conference attendees and top company executives who are positioned as high yield customers who can spend much on unique, luxurious and expensive services says executive-director of the Jordan Inbound Tourism Association Ahmed Bashiti.

Aqaba for the specialist

One diving expert

Diving, in particular, is becoming an increasingly popular sport that many locals are taking up. But because the geography of Jordan is not naturally linked to the sea, the popularity of Aqaba as a seafaring city is taking an easier pace for Jordanians to immediately consider “daring activities”.

“We are slowly getting there,” one diving expert puts it. "More people are coming to Aqaba from the surrounding towns and cities. This means more are likely to set their eyes on daring activities such as diving," he points out.

Ahmed Abdel Hai from Amman

"Distance is very important as these sports and activities are within the city contours with its over-towering and sturdy mountains over-looking the beach and the sea under the blazing sun," says Ahmed Abdel Hai, a local from Amman who regularly take to Aqaba for special adventures.

Mount trekking aficionados are known to head to the peeks of Aqaba to trail them as they watch the sea down and beyond. "It is a majestic experience," says Abdel Hai. "To look down below as you trek the surrounding mountains in their ruggedness is something you want to experience first-hand as you have the whole horizon of the sea in front of you," he adds.

Quotes for the 'Golden triangle' article

Commissioner Saleh Kilani

“Today the south of Jordan is a ‘golden triangle’ engulfing Aqaba, Wadi Rum and Petra,” Saleh Al Kilani, commissioner for investment and economic development in the Aqaba Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA.“In the ‘golden triangle’ concept we have an extraordinary product that we can market to the tourists which is really unique to Jordan,” he adds. “The golden triangle idea is becoming more and more exciting judging from the testimonials the Tourism Division receives from group and individual visitors who post their impressions on some of the travel websites,” points out Al Kilani. This gives us a further indication that the golden triangle idea should be promoted more and more on the domestic and international levels, he concludes.

Tourism Division Head Ghassan Nasser

“Tourists coming to Aqaba can get ‘three destinations in one,’ and all within easy reach of one another, and that surely must be a touristic bargain” stresses head of the Tourism Division at ASEZA Ghassan Nasser.

“It’s an excellent way of adding richness to your holiday, you can have Aqaba as a staging post, enjoy the sun, the beach and the shopping then have other days to spend in Wadi Rum or Petra, adds Nasser. “The triangle idea is actually becoming very popular also with corporate tourists who increasingly come to Aqaba on different business consultative assignments, and frequently like to explore Wadi Rum and Petra,” Nasser adds.

Whilst many a traveler could be forgiven for thinking these picturesque peaks are Wadi Rum, not so points Abdel Atheem, a Aqaba taxi driver who says that the Wadi Rum stretches at least 25 kilometers deep inside the deserts and that in order to explore its aura you really need to hire a jeeb or can even travel by a camel once you are on the Wadi Rum intersection.

Ahmed Saqfalheit

This is exactly what adventure travelers like Ahmed Saqefalheit. They pack there belongings in Amman, travel to Aqaba, have it as a staging post, and then go and explore what he says as the wonders of Wadi Rum.

“With its rich topography, it’s as if you are on plant Mars, he says. “In Wadi Rum, you can go for the day or spend the night in either a campsite or a real Bedouin tent,” he says.

“We come here two or three times a year with a small group of friends, drive the Wadi through a pre-arranged truck and sleep the night in a Bedouin tent that is fully equipped with the essentials of beds, showers and bathrooms,” he says.

Best practices ensure quality tourism article…..

ASEZA Chief Commissioner Nader Dahabi

“Best practices are important because they benchmark quality,” Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) Chief Commissioner Nader Dahabi said. “Best practices infer the adoption of means, methods and behaviour to offer quality services to tourists so they can enjoy their stay when they are visiting the city,” Dahabi added. “We already have some of the best hotels in the city that offer service of international standards and quality to make sure that clients, both domestic and international, receive only the best, when they come to Aqaba,” the ASEZA chief commissioner said.

“Tourists are looking for the little details of the smile, being received at the dinner table, prompt room service, clean laundry,” said a tourism expert working with ASEZA. “Because we live in a world where we are constantly bombarded by news, today’s tourists are very inquisitive and have an enormous appetite for information. That’s why staff in the tourism industry must be knowledgeable about the local surroundings and be able to give advice on simple things such as how to get to the nearest pharmacy, where travellers’ cheques can be exchanged, the location of the post office...,” the expert added.

Abu Mohammad, taxi driver

“We are required to undergo a three-day training period,” said Abu Mohammad, a taxi driver working in Aqaba. “This course is compulsory and includes ways and means of dealing with members of the public and tourists, and telling them about our city, being civil and friendly, informing them about the different places to visit, and how to get from one place to another,” he added.

Mustapha Abu Tahoon, manager of a restaurant near promenade

“I don’t agree with those who say Aqaba is expensive, as a resort its prices are more or less the same as Amman and other cities in Jordan, and much cheaper than resorts of Sharm Al Sheikh or those in Syria where they do charge higher prices once they know you are a tourist. “This season tourism dropped by 50 percent he says,” countering my suggestion that there are lots of people around. “It used to be much more with hotels nearly packed, but this season was different, he said as we sipped the tea while Younis was still shivering from his swimming escapade.


More by this Author


Comments

No comments yet.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working