(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey are examining ways to utilise their common historical and cultural heritage to boost tourism within the region.
The tourism ministers of the four countries gathered in Beirut on Tuesday to discuss the proposed integration of regional tourism markets to increase international and domestic tourist flow, according to the Ministry of Tourism.
Speaking at the meeting of the four ministers, held as part of High Level Board for Strategic Cooperation, Minister of Tourism Zeid Goussous highlighted tourism as an important contributor to the countries' economies.
"Our meeting is to map out a framework for growing tourism in our collective destinations in a manner that would yield even better growth than could be otherwise achieved independently," Goussous said in yesterday's meeting, proposing a strategy to jointly utilise the countries' tourism assets.
Regional tourism should be encouraged through capitalising on collective experiences, facilitating and attracting joint investment, improving industry standards and conducting promotion campaigns, he said.
Goussous referred to the common tourist treasures in the four countries, including Christian and Islamic pilgrimage sites and historical sites stretching from the pre-historic to the Islamic periods, highlighting the possibility of linking sites across borders to package to tourists.
He also highlighted the need to facilitate and attract investments through coordination among tourism authorities and reducing barriers to investment in the industry.
During the one-day meeting, Turkish Minister of Tourism Ertugrul Gunay said his country received 25 million tourists in 2009 compared to four million in Jordan, six million in Syria and two million in Lebanon, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.
He added that the figures could be "doubled" through cooperation among the four countries.
The ministers' recommendations are scheduled to be announced in a press conference today.
The tourism sector accounted for 14 per cent of the Kingdom's gross domestic product in 2010 and is projected to create 25,000 jobs within the next five years.
According to Jordan Tourism Board figures, 156,171 Turkish tourists visited the Kingdom between January and November 2010, while 339,556 Syrian and 99,799 Lebanese visitors travelled to Jordan during the same period.
By Khetam Malkawi