AMMAN — Harking back to a time when religious pilgrimage was the basis of tourism in many countries, Jordanian Christian leaders are travelling to Europe to promote Christian tourism to the Kingdom, a Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) official said on Monday.
According to the UN World Tourism Organisation, around 300 to 330 million tourists visit key religious sites around the world annually, making nearly 600 million national and international religious trips, 40 per cent of which take place in Europe.
“We need to educate people that Jordan is a holy land. The start of the Christian pilgrimage began here,” said JTB Managing Director Abed Al Razzaq Arabiyat.
The official highlighted the importance of informing worshippers at church services about the holy sites in Jordan.
“It makes a difference when it is a priest who’s talking to people,” he told The Jordan Times.
Father Rifaat Bader, director of the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media in Amman, was the first priest to attend masses in European churches. He attended three services in Barcelona earlier this week, Arabiyat said.
Some 10 other priests and Christian leaders from different Jordanian churches will be joining the tour in Europe, he added.
“The participating priests have faith in the country and the important religious role the tour plays, in addition to promoting tourism as a whole in Jordan,” the JTB official added.
The priests’ destinations are chosen by the board’s offices in several countries after studying the local interest in visiting Jordan for religious purposes, according to the JTB.
The top European countries from where tourists are interested in visiting religious sites in the Kingdom include Spain, Italy and Russia, in addition to several countries in North and South America.
Arab countries topping the list are Lebanon and Egypt, according to the JTB.
There are around 34 Christian holy sites around Jordan, Arabiyat said, including the Baptism Site, Mount Nebo, Anjara, Tel Mar Elias and Madaba.
“The fact that the sites are mentioned in the Bible makes them significant to many Europeans,” the official noted.
Source: Jordan Times Website