Sharhabeel Madi Sharhabeel Madi

Q & A with Sharhabeel Madi, Commissioner Economic Affairs, Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority

AQABA SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONE AUTHORITY (ASEZA) HAS LONG PLAYED A PIVOTAL ROLE IN SHAPING THE FUTURE OF THE TOURISM SECTOR IN AQABA AND IN JORDAN IN GENERAL

, AND AS SHARHABEEL MADI, COMMISSIONER, ECONOMIC AFFAIRS, ASEZA, EXPLAINS, THE FUTURE LOOKS PROMISING.

TRAVEL TRADE MENA: What are the priorities and the most pressing issue on your agenda at the moment?

SHARHABEEL MADI: ASEZA continues to offer a charter flight support programme to facilitate accessibility and increase the number of visitors.

The scheme offers a bonus of USD3,000 per flight for the first service in the week of operation and the amount augments for the four subsequent flights in the same week to reach USD5,000.

The programme also grants a bonus of USD3 per passenger per additional night – over four nights – for nonstop, point to point charter flights.

In an effort [to support the sector], the Jordanian government has waived the departure tax for all charter services, low-cost carriers as well as scheduled flights departing from King Hussein International Airport in Aqaba.

In addition to the charter flights programme, ASEZA also offers a cooperation marketing support for tour operators interested in selling and promoting a minimum of four-night itinerary in Aqaba, Wadi Rum and Petra. […]

Aqaba is also witnessing the launch of a 18-hole golf course at Ayla Oasis, opening up new segments for the destination and ASEZA is eager to support this niche segment which holds a lot of potential for Aqaba.

ASEZA has also joined forces with Royal Wings to attract regional and international tourists by increasing airline capacity from different destinations, [including] Beirut, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki and Brussels.

The authority has also tied up with the private sector to organise the Aqaba Carnival 2017 for the third consecutive year. […]

With billions being invested in new mega projects, Aqaba is adding 2,000 guests rooms to its inventory by the second half of 2017.

To this end, ASEZA is focussing on conducting practical trainings to meet the booming demand and successfully compete with other regional tourism hotspots.

TRAVEL TRADE MENA: How satisfied are you with the past months in terms of business performance?

SHARHABEEL MADI: So far this year, the average length of stay has increased from 2.03 days in 2015 to 2.07 days.

This follows a notable rise in arrivals with the figure for the first half of the year rising to 278,423 from 244,199 in the same period in 2015.

TRAVEL TRADE MENA: Which markets are your top targets?

HARHABEEL MADI: Our research has shown that demand from divers has not been affected as much as some other sectors, therefore we are focussing on this niche segment. Steps have been taken to attract certain markets, such as the UK, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Moscow and Spain, by exhibiting in main dive shows in those countries, attracting major operators, and promoting Aqaba in leading diving magazines.

TRAVEL TRADE MENA: What approaches and tools will to used to enhance the destination’s reputation?

SHARHABEEL MADI: In order to attract both leisure as well as business visitors, ASEZA is developing a new multi-language website, which will be compatible with modern digital trends and will successfully represent Aqaba as an attractive tourism destination.

In the first quarter of 2017, the new platform will be launched in 10 languages to help promote the destination more efficiently.

Two digital campaigns will be also implemented to promote Aqaba and the Golden Triangle as a playground for authentic experiences and adventures […].

ASEZA is focussing on attracting press and media representatives, bloggers as well as tour operators from the primary markets, allowing them to experience first hand all that the destination has to offer.