AMMAN, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- After Israel opened an airport near its southern border with Jordan to Palestinian passengers travelling abroad last week, several Jordanian travel agents expressed concern that the Israeli move would significantly reduce the number of Palestinians travelling via Jordan and urged the kingdom to take appropriate actions.
Dozens of Palestinians departed for Cyprus from southern Israel's Ramon Airport on Aug. 22 after Israel launched a pilot program to enable Palestinians from the occupied West Bank to fly overseas. Previously, the only outbound route for Palestinians in the West Bank was via Jordan.
Losing the Palestinian passengers would result in financial losses to travel agents, the hospitality sector, as well as other sectors, said Ahmad Rafed, a ticket salesman at a travel agency in Jordan's capital Amman.
"Almost half of our business depends on Palestinian tourists who book tickets or tourism packages," said Rafed.
"Our sector will be affected even if a small percentage of Palestinians start using Ramon Airport. Palestinian tourists spend money on more than just tickets and tourism packages; they also spend money on hotel stays, transportation, dining, and shopping, "said Daoud Sleiman, a worker at a travel agency in Swefieh area in Amman.
According to the figures released by Jordan's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the number of overnight and same-day Palestinian visitors to Jordan reached more than 600,000 annually between 2017 and 2019, and hit more than 140,000 in 2020 and more than 250,000 in 2021.
According to the Jordan Society of Tourism and Travel Agents, the opening of Ramon airport is expected to decrease the number of Palestinians travelling abroad via Jordan by 55 to 65 percent.
Abeer Nauman, an economic news editor at the Jordan Press Foundation, said there would certainly be an economic impact on Jordan after Palestinian passengers started to use the Ramon airport, which is located near the Israeli resort city of Eilat and the Jordanian port of Aqaba.
"It is very important to speed up the entry procedure for Palestinian passengers via the King Hussein Bridge border and improve the quality of services provided to passengers...It is also important to upgrade the road and infrastructure from the bridge to the rest of Jordanian cities," Nauman said.
Daoud Sleiman also called on the government to improve services for the Palestinian passengers travelling via Jordan.
Ramon Airport was opened in January 2019, with the first international flight landing there two months later. It has been struggling with a decrease in passengers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, Jordan's Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission filed a complaint against Israel's opening of Ramon Airport with the International Civil Aviation Organization(ICAO), demanding ICAO take measures to ensure that Israel complies with international aviation rules in a way that guarantees the airport's operation would not compromise Jordan's interests, Jordan's state-run Petra news agency reported. ■