Jordan changes visa regulations

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Yesterday (May 4th, 2015) Jordan announced it was changing regulations surrounding tourist visas and taxes. On the face of it, this is very welcome – Jordanian tourism is in a terrible state, and Jordanians are suffering because of it.

However, the changes raise some questions, which as yet remain unanswered.

Here is a link to the full press release.

Now for the detail.

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1) Waiving visa fees for tourists of all nationalities coming through Jordanian tour operators whether traveling individually or in groups. The visa fee is waived on the condition that the traveler/travelers spend a minimum of two consecutive nights in Jordan.

Great – a positive, progressive move. It was 13 months ago when the visa fee was doubled overnight, from 20JD to 40JD. That was a mistake. I’m glad it has been rescinded. Now, even travellers who like to travel completely independently are unlikely to view booking two nights’ accommodation through a Jordanian tour operator as a hardship. The only query is in the phrase “coming through” – is a hotel reservation sufficient, or will you have to prove a booking – or does “coming through” actually require a complete package including flights? Not clear.

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2) Waiving visa fees for individual tourists who have organized their trip to Jordan without arrangements through a tour operator and have purchased the unified tourist site ticket on the condition that they spend a minimum of three consecutive nights in Jordan.

This raises more questions. Nobody I’ve spoken to – experts, travel professionals, even Jordan tourism officials – knows what a “unified tourist site ticket” is, what it covers, or where or how you can buy it. If it is a new product – a single ticket granting admission to every tourism site in the country – that is, on the face of it, a good thing, reducing bureaucracy, queues, uncertainty, etc and encouraging more visits to minor sites. Please tell us more.

However, let’s do some adding-up: Petra admission is 50JD, Jerash is 12JD, Baptism Site is 12JD… the total for every site in Jordan would come to something around 90JD, at a guesstimate. Waiving a 40JD visa fee on the condition that you have to purchase a 90JD site ticket isn’t much of a bargain! More information is needed on these conditions.

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3) Reducing visa fees for tourists entering Jordan through land borders. The visa fee will be reduced from 40JOD to 10JOD on the condition that these tourists spend a minimum of three consecutive nights in Jordan.

Another good idea. But how will this be enforced? Will it be sufficient, when entering Jordan overland, simply to state an intention to stay 3 nights? Will you have to show evidence of a firm booking? Or will just a reservation do? How about people who are staying with friends – how can they prove the duration of their visit? This needs clarification.

Also, since no tourists are entering Jordan overland from Syria or Iraq currently, and visa-requiring tourist entries from Saudi Arabia are minuscule, this must be directed purely at arrivals from Israel. Why has a 10JD fee been retained in this case, when other fees have been waived completely?

(Note – the sea border is not mentioned here, but ferry passengers from Egypt arrive in Jordan at Aqaba, where thanks to the ASEZA free zone, entry visas are already free, so no need to alter conditions.)

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4) Waiving departure tax for all scheduled flights from Aqaba and Amman, on the condition that tourists purchase the unified tourist site ticket and spend a minimum of three consecutive nights in Jordan.

This is an odd one. Departure tax (currently 30JD) hasn’t been levied in cash at the airport for many years – it has long been bound up as a hidden charge within the price of an air ticket. Will Jordan be refunding people who have already bought an air ticket out of Jordan? But wait – there’s that “unified tourist site ticket” again: what IS that, exactly? So a tourist doesn’t have to pay 30JD tax, but in return has to buy a 90JD site ticket AND spend 3 nights – do those nights have to be paid in a hotel, or can they be staying with a friend for free? And look at that wording – only “scheduled” flights count: what does that mean? It’s clear that charter flights are excluded – but is “scheduled” actually code for “legacy/full-service” carriers? Are LCCs included or excluded?

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5) Waiving the departure tax and entry visa for all low cost and charter flights leaving King Hussein International Airport – Aqaba.

More tricky wording – what exactly is a “low cost” flight? Also, it’s not the flight that pays a visa, it’s the passenger – does this mean all passengers, of all nationalities, on these kinds of flights (however they are defined) are included? But there is currently no entry visa imposed on arrival at Aqaba airport anyway, because of the ASEZA rules, so that looks like a red herring – I wonder why it was included here.

Waiving the departure tax, then, appears to be an effort to stimulate LCC and holiday charter expansion into Aqaba, by knocking 30JDpp off headline fares. Great. But those definitions need to be sorted out, I think.

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Last question: when will all this come into effect? No date is given. I hope that a decent period of notice has been allowed for, and that Jordan can break its habit of issuing peremptory overnight changes in national policy without consultation.

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On the whole, the initiative is to be welcomed, if only because it shows some creative new approaches to untangling the web of bureaucracy and regulation that hinders Jordanian tourism growth. But with no apparent slowdown in the ambition for Jordan’s tourism marketing, despite drastically reduced tourism income, I wonder how the sums add up.

And there is really no need for wordings to be so unclear – the industry, and the public, deserve more clarity on the detail. I hope that that will be forthcoming very soon.

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UPDATE 6th May 2015: brief update here, with more detail.

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9 Comments

  1. lovetotrav

    Thanks for the info. Lots of details to figure out still but sounds promising.

    1. Matthew Teller

      Thanks. Agreed!

  2. eidalhasanat

    O dear Lord, as usual information is unclear and raises more questions than it answers … Thanks for the post Matthew. When they raised the visa fee overnight I heard it from you as well 🙂 Greetings, Patricia (Petra B&B)

    1. Matthew Teller

      Thanks, Patricia – I’m sorry that you have to hear it from me! That shouldn’t be the way! Best wishes to all there.

  3. mostafasalameh

    Great article Matthew. Thank you for sharing all the info. We know where the problem lies.

    1. Matthew Teller

      Thanks, Mostafa, that’s very kind. Great to hear from you. What a mysterious comment! 🙂

  4. earthlingdaughter

    Honestly, this is so good, this is something that would actually persuade me to go there, I’d definitely consider it as a stop off and go check it out!
    Thanks for the informative article 🙂

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