Tourism has become an essential player in Jordan economy, and recently showed remarkable growth in terms of revenues, rising by 9 in the first quarter of 2010. The tourism sector in Jordan acts as the driver of sustainable economic development and is considered the second fastest growing sector in the kingdom being the largest export sector and a major employer.
Jordan witnessed several development projects in some of key tourist attractions, mainly in Aqaba and Dead Sea, which cooperate in marketing Jordan as a tourist destination and raise its competitiveness within the region. In the recent Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, produced by the World Economic Forum, Jordan ranked in position 53 out of 130 countries on the Travel and Tourism Competitive Index.
The Jordan National Tourism Strategy 2010-2015 vision is to make Jordan a distinctive destination with diverse visitor experiences that will enrich the lives of Jordanians and their guests. The strategy, aims at improving quality of services and diversifying products and facilities to conform to international criteria and increase number of tourists visiting tourism sites.
JITOA works intensively with its members and board of directors to direct more attention on creating new themes in tourist packages and including more unique activities, rather than sticking to the traditional sightseeing itineraries. In addition to working on offering more incentive packages to enrich the tourist experience and extend the period of stay in the destination.
Tourism in Jordan attracts tourists from around the world and is well known of its diverse tourist sites and activities. Jordan is a rich destination with a wide range of tourist attractions. Jordan has a developed tourism infrastructure with a plethora of luxury hotels and resorts, advanced transport infrastructure, a wide range of activities and cultural events, spas and numerous tour operators operating in the country.
Tourism accounts for a large part of Jordan's economy. Jordanian hospitality is well noted by its rash of western tourists. In 2008, there were over 6 million arrivals, 3 million of them tourists, with tourist receipts amounting to about 3 billion dollars. Its major tourist activities include visiting ancient sites (like the worldwide famous Petra) and unspoilt natural locations, as well as observing cultural and religious sites and traditions.
In addition to its historical sites, Jordan offers the following tourist attractions:
Health tourism is becoming very popular in Jordan. Many of the recipients of Jordanian hospitals are Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. Syrians, Yemenis, and South East Asians working in Jordan are also common visitors. Leisure tourism in the Dead Sea area offer world-class spas to visitors. Theuraptic tourism is an increasingly important sector of the Jordanian tourism industry.
Education tourism is also very popular in Jordan. Jordan's excellent education program is a favorite for westerners studying Arabic in the Middle East. Also, those who can afford it study in Jordan's European and American universities.
Adventurers staying in Jordan can also rock-climb in Jordan's Wadi Rum and go for hikes in Jordan's northern mountainous region. Scuba divers can visit Aqaba's magnificent coral reefs.
Pop-culture tourism is also evident in Jordan because many western films have been filmed in Jordan
Shopping tourism is popular in Amman, Irbid, and Aqaba.
Pilgrimages are growing in Jordan. Mount Nebo and the Mosaic Map in Madaba are popular to Christian tourists. The Jordan River and the Dead Sea are also very popular. The numerous medieval mosques and churches are popular destinations for pilgrims.
The major characteristic of the climate is the contrast between a relatively rainy season from November to April and very dry weather for the rest of the year. With hot, dry, uniform summers and cool, variable winters during which practically all of the precipitation occurs, the country has a Mediterranean-style climate.
In general, the farther inland from the Mediterranean Sea a given part of the country lies, the greater are the seasonal contrasts in temperature and the less rainfall. Atmospheric pressures during the summer months are relatively uniform, whereas the winter months bring a succession of marked low pressure areas and accompanying cold fronts. These cyclonic disturbances generally move eastward from over the Mediterranean Sea several times a month and result in sporadic precipitation.
Most of the East Bank receives less than 120 millimeters (4.7 in) of rain a year and may be classified as a dry desert or steppe region. Where the ground rises to form the highlands east of the Jordan Valley, precipitation increases to around 300 millimeters (11.8 in) in the south and 500 millimeters (19.7 in) or more in the north. The Jordan Valley, lying in the lee of high ground on the West Bank, forms a narrow climatic zone that annually receives up to 300 millimeters (11.8 in) of rain in the northern reaches; rain dwindles to less than 120 millimeters (4.7 in) at the head of the Dead Sea.
The country's long summer reaches a peak during August. January is usually the coolest month. The fairly wide ranges of temperature during a twenty-four-hour period are greatest during the summer months and have a tendency to increase with higher elevation and distance from the Mediterranean seacoast. Daytime temperatures during the summer months frequently exceed 36 °C (96.8 °F) and average about 32 °C (89.6 °F). In contrast, the winter months—November to April—bring moderately cool and sometimes cold weather, averaging about 13 °C (55.4 °F). Except in the rift depression, frost is fairly common during the winter, it may take the form of snow at the higher elevations of the north western highlands. Usually it snows a couple of times in western Amman.
For a month or so before and after the summer dry season, hot, dry air from the desert, drawn by low pressure, produces strong winds from the south or southeast that sometimes reach gale force. Known in the Middle East by various names, including the khamsin, this dry, sirocco-style wind is usually accompanied by great dust clouds. Its onset is heralded by a hazy sky, a falling barometer, and a drop in relative humidity to about 10 percent. Within a few hours there may be a 10 °F (5.56 °C) to 15 °F (8.33 °C) rise in temperature. These windstorms ordinarily last a day or so, cause much discomfort, and destroy crops by desiccating them.