The pope may be in the Kingdom only hours – but the Jordan tourism industry has big plans

Tourism in the Kingdom of Jordan contributes 12 percent of gross domestic product in the desert kingdom and last year saw arrivals drop 10 percent to 5.4 million with revenues falling 6.25 percent to

The pope may be in the Kingdom only hours – but the Jordan tourism industry has big plans

Tourism in the Kingdom of Jordan contributes 12 percent of gross domestic product in the desert kingdom and last year saw arrivals drop 10 percent to 5.4 million with revenues falling 6.25 percent to $3 billion (2.2 billion euros).

Jordan, home to many Islamic and Christian holy sites, hopes a visit this month by Pope Francis will promote religious tourism and boost an industry hit hard by regional turmoil.

Tourism Board chief Abdul Razzaq Arabiat wants to focus on religious tourism and make it a priority. He thinks it would be least likely to be affected by political and economic issues.

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Pope Francis visits the Holy Land on May 24-26 with the first stop in Jordan, home to seven million people including about 200,000 Christians, more or less evenly split between Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox.

He will only spend a few hours in the tiny kingdom but the Jordan tourism board counts on his visit will be a major opportunity to promote Christian religious tourism.

Jordan features three sites of great potential interest to Christians, including Wadi al-Kharrar, or Bethany Beyond the Jordan, where some biblical historians believe Jesus was baptized and began his public ministry.

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