Amman- As a continuation of efforts to promote tourism careers among Jordanians and encourage women to engage in the tourism and hospitality sector, a series of workshops recently took place in Petra for high school girls in Petra and the surrounding areas of Beidha and Taybeh. The workshops helped raise the girls’ awareness of tourism and the promising jobs it offers. The workshops were organized through a partnership between USAID Jordan Tourism Development Project, the CIDA-funded Building and Extending Skills Training Systems (Best) Project, the Vocational Training Corporation (VTC) and Petra Development Tourism Region Authority (PDTRA).
"These workshops help get important messages across to youth to realize the importance of tourism and its contribution to better incomes and living standards and enhancing knowledge of other cultures," said H.E. Dr. Haifa Abu Ghazaleh, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities.
"One of PDTRA’s main goals is to develop the Petra region in terms of economy, society, culture and tourism and this initiative is part of our continuous cooperation with the USAID tourism project to improve local communities and upgrade tourism services that correspond to Petra's global position," said H.E. Eng. Mohammad Mumtaz Al Qaisi, PDTRA Commissioner for Tourism and Investment. "Local community awareness of the importance of tourism and the site they embrace encouraged large numbers to attend these sessions," he added.
A supporter of this initiative, H.E. Sami Al Hasanat, Parliamentarian from Petra, commented saying, "If people lack awareness of tourism careers then we'll miss an integral component of our national economy. This initiative helped to achieve large goals, such as getting people to understand that tourism is not prohibited, from a religious point of view, but acceptable and as respectable as any other job."
"One of our main goals is to encourage young Jordanians, particularly girls, to take up hospitality studies and be part of the country’s promising tourism, which has many interesting jobs available to those who have the right skills," said H.E. Engineer Majed Habashneh, VTC Director.
According to Ibrahim Osta, Chief of Party of the USAID Jordan Tourism Development Project, “The tourism sector still faces a challenge in attracting Jordanians, particularly women, to work in hospitality despite the fact that it creates jobs and offers good careers. Initiatives such as this one help youth understand how much they can benefit from tourism and that it is an important part of Jordan’s economy.”
The workshops promoted the importance of the tourism sector and shared positive facts about it. Negative perceptions of Jordanians about tourism careers were addressed by highlighting that the industry is rewarding, full of opportunities, continuously growing and diverse. The presentation also promoted the new vocational training program on jewelry production offered at the Petra VTC. A short film was screened showing testimonies of Jordanians working in the sector, hospitality students and policy makers, along with a success story of the Nashmiyat Al Balqa Cooperative, which is operated by women from Salt who produce beautiful handmade appliqué products for the tourism market. The USAID tourism project also produced and distributed brochures about tourism and how it enriches our lives.
"Capacity building, training and self empowerment will create community jobs and immediate support to families. Sustainable tourism development is a base for additional income for the people, especially in the south of Jordan," said Dr. John Knapp, Policy Advisor and Project Manager at BEST.
More than 1000 students, parents and teachers attended the series of six workshops over two days. Ghadeer Rawagfeh, a teacher from Aisha school in Taybeh, found the workshops useful and said, "I've noticed some students like the idea of working in the tourism sector."
Bayan Ahmad, 11th grade student at Rufaidah School in Wadi Mousa, enjoyed the workshop saying, "I've taken in every word said in the session and it was so exciting. I may one day consider studying archaeology or hospitality."
In Jordan, less than 3000 students graduate from tourism and hospitality programs each year, and women make up less than 10% of Jordan’s tourism labor force. This signifies an urgent need to encourage youth, especially young women, to take up tourism careers given that the industry will need more workers to fill the 25,000 jobs that the sector will create between now and 2014.