Jordan decides to deter individuals

From 1st January 2011, visa fees to enter Jordan as an individual traveller will go up. At the time of writing only the Jordanian Embassy in Australia has publicly posted this information officially; no doubt more will follow.

The cost of a single-entry visa is doubling to 20JD (or US$30 equivalent; roughly £19).

A new category is being created for a double-entry visa, at 30JD (or US$45 equivalent; roughly £28).

And a multiple-entry visa is trebling in price, to 60JD (or US$85 equivalent; roughly £54).

These apply only to individual travellers. People arriving in Jordan in a group of five or more, booked through a tour operator, travelling together and staying for more than two nights, qualify for free visas.

(Presumably, visa fees if you arrive by land, air or sea at Aqaba remain free, under Jordan’s desperately confusing system of semi-autonomous administration for the Aqaba duty-free zone “ASEZA“.)

This comes on top of this year’s huge rises in entry fees to Petra, which now stand at 50JD (US$70/£45) for one day, rising to 60JD (US$85/£54) for three days – or an eye-watering 90JD (US$126/£80) if you are on a daytrip to Jordan from elsewhere.

These numbers do their own talking. As regular visitors to this blog will know, I have spent a lot of time in Jordan, and I love the country very much. On the back of figures stating that 48% of foreign holidays taken by Brits in 2009-10 were individual trips NOT booked through a tour operator, I am perplexed – and worried – by this latest decision. It sends the wrong message to the market and I believe could paint Jordan into a corner, forcing the country to rely more and more on group trade in years to come – just when potential visitors from Europe and North America are seeking more flexibility and niche value to their holidays.

I hope it doesn’t backfire.