Religious Tourism in Jordan: Current situation, future developments and prospects

(A case study on Islamic and Christian holy sites)


Malek Bader

Presented To

Department of Hospitality Management

The purpose of this research study is to analyse the state of the religious tourism product 
in Jordan from three main perspectives: To present the current state of religious tourism 
in Jordan through studying the tourism movement in the holy sites and analysing the potentials and future prospects. The relationship between the local community and these 
sites will be the second perspective from which the researcher will form the  study. A third perspective is studying the visitorsâ satisfaction about the services presented to them and the evaluation of the current state of the selected holy sites, whether they are Islamic or Christian. 
The study was carried out at the Islamic and Christian sites of Jordan: five Christian holy sites are included, namely the Baptism Site, Mount Nebo, Our Lady of the Mountain, and the shrines of Mar Elijah and Mukawir. The Vatican recognized these holy sites as pilgrimage places in 2000. Eight Islamic holy sites are included too, namely, the shrines of Jaâfar bin Abi Taleb, Zaid ibn Harithah, Abdallah bin Rawahah, Abu Ubaydah Amir ibn al-Jarrah, Muâath bin Jabal, Shurhabil bin Husnah, Amir bin Abi Waqqas, and Dirar bin al-Azwar. 
The selection of these  sites was based on their religious and tourist significance, both Islamic and Christian. In addition, these sites, according to statistics obtained from Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, are the most targeted by tourists and pilgrims for religious purposes and motives. The researcher obtained data by implementing different tools of study and research; most data depend on national and international statistics, indices of tourism and religious tour-
ism in particular. In addition, literature on religious tourism helped in formulating the structure of the research, although the shortage of Arabic and English references was remarkable. Therefore, the researcher hopes that this study will be a good addition and asset to the literature of religious tourism in Jordan. The researcherâs observations were a significant tool in this study and he made valuable observations that could play an important role in developing the religious tourism product in the kingdom if they are well implemented. The researcher conducted very fruitful qualitative research (interviews) with officials working in the field of tourism and, in particular, religious tourism, and he did a lot of interviews with visitors,tourists, and pilgrims at the holy sites, local communities around the holy sites, directors of the holy sites, directors of tourism directorates and religious men (Imams1 or priests). 211 self completed questionnaires were filled during the study period (from the beginning of May to the end of August 2009) to analyse religious tourism at the sites from many different perspectives. The questionnaires were analysed with the programme SPSS 17.0, and the interviews were analysed with the help of the programme MAXQDA 10. In other words, the researcher used both qualitative and quantitative methods of research. 
The main results of the research can be summarized as follows: The vast majority of those who responded to the questionnaire (83.3%) believe that understanding common religious heritage is a factor upon which dialogue and a better coexistence between religions can begin to take place in a part of our world which suffers a lot of problems based on religious conflicts. Less than 1% of the respondents gave a negative answer to this question, which indicates that there are strong feelings for understanding and building relationships based on common religious heritage. This is an important finding because it reiterates the role that common religious heritage has in the 
promotion of religious sites and the bringing together of people from different religious 
backgrounds. Christians were found among the Muslims in the Islamic holy sites and vice versa; this encourages the idea of the common religious heritage and its effect on the convergence and understanding between the people of different religions. However, there is one problem and this is related to visitors from Israel, but this is because of the well known political reasons and not due to religious beliefs of the people. The main purpose and also the main incentive for the tourists and  visitors to visit the holy sites are prayer and worship which are from religious motives. Holy sites in Jordan are places of prayer and worship which also provide some form of relaxation and entertainment. When asked with whom visitors usually go to the religious sites, it was reported that 58.8% usually go to the holy sites with their families. It could be concluded from this percentage that religious tourism is also connected to family tourism. For this reason, the government and officials should take care to provide for the needs and services that are suitable for families at the holy sites.
Table of Contents
List of Contents 
Abstract  9   
Zusammenfassung  13   
Acknowledgements  16   
Dedication  18   
Chapter 1 â“ Introduction    19 
11   General Information on the Field of the Study: Jordan    19 
12   Aims of the Study  25 
13   Background of the Research  26 
14   Research Area  29 
15   Research problems and challenges  34 
16   Outline of the Research  35 
Chapter 2 â“ Conceptual Context  38 
21      Introduction  38 
22      Pаst Rеsеаrch  39 
23     DеfÑnÑng RеlÑgÑous Tourism  45 
24     MotÑvаtÑons for Religious Travel  47 
241  RеlÑgÑous MotÑvation  50 
242  Culturаl MotÑvation  51 
243  PÑlgrÑmаgе MotÑvation  52 
25      Pilgrimage  54 
251  Definitions of Pilgrimage  55 
252  Distinctions between Tourism and Pilgrimage  57 
26      Conclusion  58 
Chapter 3 â“ Research Approach and Methods  60 
31   Introduction to the Methodology  60 
32   Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Methods  60 
33   Initial Background Reading   66 
34   Primary Data Collection  67 
35   Research Limitations  69 
351  Population and Gender  69 
352   Foreign and Official Perspectives  71 

Chapter 4 â“ Jordanâs Religious Tourism Sector: Basic Facts and Framework  73 
41  Social, political and economic conditions as a framework  73 
411  Social Conditions  73 
412  Political Conditions  74 
413  Economic Conditions  77 
42  Tourism in Jordan  78 
421  Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA)  79 
422  Jordan Tourism Board (JTB)  80 
423  Jordan National Tourism Strategy 2004â“2010  80 
424  National Tourism Strategy 2011-2015  81 
43  Religious Tourism (Faith Tourism)  83 
44  Religious Sites of Jordan  88 
44 1   Christian Holy Sites  89 
4411  The Baptism Site  89 
4412  Mount Nebo (The Memorial of Moses)  92 
4413  Mukawir  94 
4414  Our Lady of the Mount  96 
4415  Tal Mar Elias (Shrine of the Prophet Elijah)  97 
442  Islamic Holy Sites   99 
4421  The Shrine of Abu Ubaydah Amir ibin al-Jarrah   99 
4422  The Shrine of Muâath bin Jabal  100 
4423  The Shrine of Shurhabil bin Husnah  101 
4424  The Shrine of Amir bin Abi Waqqas  102 
4425  The Shrine of  Dirar bin al-Azwar    103 
4426  The Shrine of Jaâfar bin abi Taleb  104 
4427  The Shrine of Zaid bin al-Harithah   104 
4428  The Shrine of Abdallah bin Rawahah  106 
45  Effects of Common Religious Heritage  106 
46  Papal Visits to Jordan  109 
47  Role of the Hashemite Family concerning the Holy Places in Jordan  111 
Chapter 5 â“ Religious Tourism in Jordan:  
       Present State, development and Prospects  113 
51  Introduction  113 
52  Results from the quantitative part of the analysis   114 
521  Touristsâ Perception of Common Religious Heritage  115 
522   The Purpose of Visiting the Holy Sites  116 
523   Repeat Visits to Holy Sites  117 
524   Constituents of Groups on Visits to Holy Sites  117 
525  Means by Which Visitors Learned of Holy Sites  118 
526  Holy Sites Most Visited in Jordan  119 
527  Length of Stay at the Holy Sites  120 
528   Recommending the Holy Sites to Others  121 
529   The Best Season for Visiting the Holy Sites  122 
5210   Demographics:  123 
1 The age of the tourists  123 
2 Marital status  124 
3 Gender  124 
4 The Educational Qualification  125 
5 Nationality  126 
6 Religion  127 
7 Profession  129 
5211   Satisfaction with Services  129 
53  Suggestions collected from the quantitative part of the study  135 
54   Results from the qualitative part of the research: Interviews  136 
541  Present situation, actual problems and prospected development of Jordanâs religious tourism sector  137 
542  Perspectives from Travel Agents  145 
543  Importance of Tourism Promotion and Future Development  148 
544  Promotion and the Common Religious Heritage  153 
545  Promotion and the Trails  154 
547  Results from the qualitative part of research: Participant Observation  156 
55  Conclusion  159 
Chapter 6 â“ SWOT Analysis of Religious Tourism in Jordan   160 
61   Introduction   160 
611   Strengths   160 
612   Weaknesses  161 
613   Opportunities  163 
614   Threats  164  
62   Conclusion   165 

Chapter 7 â“ Conclusions, Assumptions and Recommendations  166 
71  Conclusions  166 
72  Assumptions  169 
73  Recommendations  171 
References  177 
Appendix 1:  Questionnaire in English  185 
Appendix 2:  Questionnaire in Arabic  188 
Appendix 3:  Map of Abraham Path  191 
Appendix 4:  Map of the Holy Sites of Jordan  192 
Appendix 5:  Travel Guide to Holy Sites in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories  
(in English and German)  193 
Appendix 6:  Biblical Jordan: A Programme of Visit to the Holy Sites in Jordan  197 
Appendix 7:  Another Programme of Visit to the Holy Sites of Jordan  200 
Appendix 8:  Example of Interview Questions   204

List of Tables 
Table 21:  The seven elements of tourist motivational theory  49 
Table 22:   The Pilgrim-Tourist Path   50 
Table 41:  Increase in the receipts and the number of tourists  78 
Table 42:  Number of tourists from 2003â“2008  100 
Table 51:  Touristsâ Perception of Common Religious Heritage  115 
Table 52:  The purpose of the visit-pray and worship  116 
Table 53:   The purpose of the visit- relaxation and entertainment  116 
Table 54:  Number of times you visit a holy site  117 
Table 55:  Going to the holy site with family  118 
Table 56:  Learning about holy sites- general information  118 
Table 57:  Learning about holy sites- internet  119 
Table 58:  Did you visit Baptism Site?  120 
Table 59:  Did you visit Abu Ubaydah Shrine  120 
Table 510:   Did you visit Mount Nebo?  120 
Table 511:  Length of Stay at the Holy Sites  121 
Table 512:  Recommending the holy sites to others  122 
Table 513:  The Best Season for Visiting the Holy Sites  122 
Table 514:  The age of the tourists  123 
Table 515:  The marital status  124 
Table 516:  The gender  125 
Table 517:  The educational qualification  126 
Table 518:  Tourists and their religion in Baptism site  127 
Table 519:  Tourists and their religion in Abu Ubaydah Shrine  128 
Table 520:  Tourists and their religion in Mount Nebo  128 
Table 521:  Signs to the sites  129 
Table 522:   Parking  130 
Table 523:   Tourist information centre  130 
Table 524:   Accessibility  130 
Table 525:  Availability of information about the site  131 
Table 526:  Entrance fees  131 
Table 527:  Cleanliness  131 
Table 528:  Security and safety  132 
Table 529:   Prices and quality of gifts and souvenirs  132 
Table 530:   Food and drink services  133 
Table 531:  Hospitability  133
Table 532:  Facilities inside the site  133 
Table 533:  Social life at the holy site  134 
Table 534:  Places of pray and worship inside the holy sites  134 
Table 535:  Tourist guides accompanying the tourists to the holy sites  134 
Table 536:  Your visit in general  135 
List of Photos 
Photo 41:  Pilgrimage day at the Baptism Site   89 
Photo 42:  Pope Benedict XVI with the King and Queen of Jordan  
during the opening of a church at the Baptism Site, 2009   91 
Photo 43:  On the top of Mount Nebo   93 
Photo 44:   Tourists and pilgrims entering Mount Nebo, Moses Shrine   93  
Photo 45:  On the top of the Mountain where John the Baptist was beheaded   85 
Photo 46:  Shrine of the Lady of our Mount   97 
Photo 47:   Icon in the shrine of Our Lady of the Mount depicting miracle  
in which a statue of Virgin Mary wept blood  97 
Photo 48:  Shrine of the Prophet Elijah, the entrance of the site   98 
Photo 49:  Abu Ubaydah Amir ibin al-Jarrah  Shrine  100 
Photo 410:  The tomb inside the shrine   101 
Photo 411:  Muâath bin Jabal Shrine   102 
Photo 412:  Shurahbil bin Husnah Shrine   102 
Photo 413:  Amir bin Abi Waqqas Shrine  103  
Photo 414:  The services which can be found in most of the Islamic holy sites   103 
Photo 415:  Dirar bin al-Azwar   104 
Photo 416:  Jaâfar bin Abi Taleb Shrine and Zaid bin al-Harithah Shrine  
within a single wall  105 
Photo 417:   A multi-lingual sign post used in the two shrines  105 
Photo 418:   Abdallah bin Rawahah Shrine   105 
Photo 419:   Churches beside mosques in Jordan   108 
Photo 420:   The Pope Benedict XVI visited Jordan in 2009  110 
Photo 51:  The tree that is believed to have provided shade for the Prophet  
Muhammad when he travelled to Damascus with his uncle Abu Taleb   143 

List of Maps 
Map 11:   Arab Countries in Africa and Asia   20 
Map 12:   Borders of the Holy Land  22 
Map 13:   Silk Route  23 
Map 14:   borders of Jordan from 1949-1967  24 
Map 15:   borders of Jordan after 1967  24 
Map 16:   Study area Christian Pilgrimage Sites  30 
Map 17:   Study area of Islamic Holy Sites  32 
Map 41:   The Twelve Governorates of Jordan  76 
List of Figures 
Figure 21:  A typology of motivators in tourism  48 
Figure 41:  Goals of religious tourism  108 
Figure 51:  The Age  123 
Figure 52:  Marital Status  124 
Figure 53:  The Gender  124 
Figure 54:  Education Levels  125 
Figure 55:  Nationalities of Tourists  126

List of Abbreviations 
ABC  Arab Banking Cooperation 
AIR  American Institutes for Research 
BSC  Baptism Site Commission, Jordan 
BTI   Bertelsmann Stiftung Transformation Index  
CAGR  Compound Annual Growth Rate 
CIA         Central Intelligence Agency 
CRS  Congressional Research Service 
DoA  Department of Antiquities, Jordan 
DoS  Department of Statistics, Jordan 
FAI   Franciscan Archaeological Institute, Jordan 
FDI   Foreign Direct Investment  
GDP  Gross Domestic Product 
GIS  Geographic Information System 
HDI  Human Development Index 
IMF  International Monetary Fund 
ITB  Internationale Tourismus-Börse (International Tourism Fair) in Berlin 
JD  Jordan Dinar 
JNTS  Jordanâs National Tourism Strategy 
JTB  Jordan Tourism Board 
KAAD  Katholischer Akademischer Ausländer-Dienst   
(Catholic Academic Exchange Service) 
MoTA  Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Jordan 
SPM  Strategic Master Plan 
SPSS  Statistical Package for Social Sciences 
UNWTO  United Nations World Tourism Organisation 
VTC                Vocational Training Centre  
WHS  World Heritage Site 
WTTC  World Travel and Tourism Council 

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