Big names move to Jordan as tourism booms

JORDAN – Hilton, one of the world’s largest hotel chains, has opened its first outpost in Jordan as the country’s tourism industry continues to attract new names – and visitors.

The brand announced March 31 that its midscale brand DoubleTree had opened a 173-room property in Aqaba, Jordan’s only coastal city which is a popular tourist destination thanks to its Red Sea location.

The hotel, Hilton’s first property in Jordan, offers views of the Red Sea, an infinity pool, whirlpools, sauna and steamroll and four restaurants and bars, including a lounge bar with views over the Gulf of Aqaba.

Aqaba, named Arab Tourism Capital 2011 by the Arab Tourism Ministers Council, is fast becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in Jordan, itself going through a significant amount of change.

The city is already home to several luxury brands such as Kempinski and InterContinental, while Hilton’s competitor Marriott is also planning to open a hotel in the resort in 2013.

The new developments, and Jordan’s rapidly-rising star on the international stage, helped push arrivals to Aqaba up by a third between 2004 and 2009.

Although it boasts the country’s second largest airport – Aqaba International – the town has been considerably boosted by the growing number of visitors to Jordan generally, many of whom pass through on their way to Wadi Rum, a popular rock formation deep in the desert.

Those numbers have been rising rapidly, up 20 percent last year, and although ongoing unrest in the Middle East is expected to dent this year’s numbers, authorities remain upbeat on the country’s future potential as a Middle East tourism destination.

This week, EasyJet inaugurated a new route between London and Jordan, which is expected to significantly boost the country’s profile in the UK – and the airline says it could also offer services from France and Switzerland if demand is strong enough.

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