Is cultural immersion superseding conventional tourism in Jordan?

In the face of sweeping globalisation, the internet has revolutionised the concept and purpose of tourism worldwide. Travellers nowadays enjoy easy access to a wealth of photos, videos, and information on all their bucket list destinations. This endless growth in exposure and interconnectedness bred rising expectations into more meaningful, human-centred, and culturally-rich experiences. It is no longer about sightseeing and city tours, but rather about humans and their traditions, beliefs, foods, and stories.  


As a hot up-and-coming destination, Jordan is no exception – adapting to such shifts and keeping up with the latest travel trends. Recognising the importance of said changes, Leaders International partners with development actors such as the Delegation of the European Union to Jordan and the Embassy of the Netherlands to equip local enterprises with the required expertise to engage travellers seeking a unique experience in Jordan. To illustrate, Leaders International is working with the Jordan Trail Association on supporting microbusinesses and local communities who live around the Jordan Trail, a 650-kilometre-long trail connecting Um Qais in the north with Aqaba in the south.  This support provides a fundamental contribution to the shifting travel pattern in Jordan. The better the products and services these communities offer, the higher is their income and the more vibrant is the traveller experience; creating a win-win situation for both ends.

Two successful examples from the local community are Abdallah Al-Sweilheen from Wadi Rum and Bayt AlJameed from Al Karak. Abdallah, a local Bedouin, capitalised on his connections to formulate a business in the heart of the Wadi Rum desert. Through his relationships with other locals, Abdallah connects camping sites with the local community, who cook traditional dishes for visitors. Through connectors like Abdallah, travellers immerse themselves in the local culture and indulge in traditional Bedouin dishes. To support Abdallah and other similar ventures while helping the local community secure a stable and steady income, Leaders International further mobilises its resources and partnerships to maximise the capacity of these community initiatives and boost their production and efficiency.

Further north, nestled into the lush hillsides of the city of Al-Karak is Bayt Al Jameed; owned and managed by two women, Amani and Ayat. The two sisters host travellers and offer them an authentic cooking experience of the locally renowned Karaki Jameed, the main ingredient in the Holy Grail of Jordanian Food, Mansaf. Through Shiraka project, Bayt Al Jameed has been identified and developed as one of the viable economic opportunities targeting inbound tourists. As a result, Amani and Ayat were able to upgrade their business and renovate the entire premises to create a welcoming atmosphere for their visitors and a memorable stay that is rich with culture, and of course, delicious Mansaf. 

Abdallah, Ayat, and Amani are part of a bigger story that hundreds of other local beneficiaries live by, and travellers tell, upon visiting Jordan. By strengthening and enabling small and medium-sized enterprises, Leaders International does not only seek positive change and impact but also human stories. Ones that can live long and promote a unique global identity for Jordan, contributing to sustained growth in tourism and ultimately, inclusive, nationwide development.