How can we revitalize religious tourism?

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How can we revitalize religious tourism?

By Fr. Rif’at Bader/CCSM director

At the invitation of the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB), the director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media (CCSM) left recently for Spain, accompanied by Mu'in Jad'oun who is in charge of Christian religious tourism at the JTB. He had several encounters with the media and made addresses in churches in both Barcelona and Madrid.

This could be a positive step and a sound "tactic" undertaken by the JTB since the Christian clergymen can serve as a bridge linking the churches in the West on the one hand and the local functionaries including the touristic aspect in our beloved country on the other. Who else can be trusted to stand at pulpits of large churches other than those who stand at church pulpits to address worshippers on Sundays? Christian clergymen are definitely aware how to address friendly people and to invite them to visit our country in a spirit that merges sincere nationalism with the Christian Arab faith that is deep-rooted in history.

A visit lasting several days may not yield the expected fruits in the field of tourism despite that fact that several people and parishioners have started to consider organizing tours to our country starting next summer. Yet, touristic trip require follow-up. It is necessary to shed light on some of the important issues:

1. Reference was made to the Spanish media because we need media coverage in the language of friendly countries. We are not satisfied with what is published by our local media because it is mostly directed to locals and is basically designed to promote local tourism.

2. It is regrettable that the efforts are currently focused on extending the duration of visitors' or pilgrims' stay in our country to three nights from merely one or two. We also hoped that such visits would at least last for an average of a week. But this is not happening in reality except in rare cases in some countries. Why? Because the "Israeli" propaganda, penetrates the Western markets, and several touristic trips are linked to Israel, Palestine and Jordan. How painful it is to know that some delegations visit "Israel" for a six-day period which includes a one-day visit to Petra, at a time when the visitors do not realize that they had even visited Jordan. Isn't this painful? This issue needs our exigent and expeditious attention.

3. From this premise, it is to be noted that Petra, despite its historical significance, does not represent the entire tourism to Jordan. We need Western media outlets and Churches in the West to highlight the Baptism Site in a comprehensive way. We have also seen invitations to visit Jordan titled, "The Holy Land and Jordan" (Tierra Santa Y Jiordania). This notification should be amended to include Jordan within the Holy Land since it is in reality a holy land on which prophets walked such as Moses, Elijah, and John the Baptist. It is the land where Lord Jesus Christ, the apostles, the martyrs lived and built churches since the first century. We had conveyed this idea to the largest institution of pilgrimage in Italy known as Opera Romana. The reaction was positive as their notifications were changed. It is also possible to build on four papal visits to Jordan over a period of half a century, which were always titled, "The Papal Pilgrimage to the Holy Land" since Jordan is a holy land.

In conclusion, we have to recall the committee--that has not seen the light of the day--which was agreed upon by former ministers of tourism. We place the proposed committee before current Minister of Tourism Lina 'Innab who came to office with working plans, namely the formation of a committee under her chairmanship whose members are proposed to be from the local and international media, the Jordan Tourism Board, clergymen from the Baptism Site Royal Commission, Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority, Jordan Travel and Tourism Guide and others. The reality indicates that without well-planned cooperation and planning among the various concerned sides, there will be no tourists or pilgrims… except for one night with arrivals from a neighboring country.

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