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Sa’ed Zawaideh, who heads the religious tourism department of the Jordan Tourism Board, explains that marketing Jordan is a challenge largely because the Israeli tourism industry for years successfully promoted Israel as the Holy Land. While he stresses that Jordan’s tourism industry does not seek to compete with its neighbor, he does hope to convince potential visitors that a visit to the kingdom completes their experience of the Holy Land.

Kevin Wright, president of the World Religious Tourism Association, explains that while “faith tourism,” as he calls it, is a growing market, it is also an evolving and changing one. In particular, pilgrims today are often looking for travel experiences that combine spirituality with more traditional sightseeing. Many want to interact with local communities in the places they visit or make a contribution through volunteer work.

“The more experiences travelers can have, from leisure to religious,” says Mr. Wright, “the longer they’re going to stay in that destination.”

Yet no matter how much religious tourism changes, today’s pilgrim differs little from the pilgrim of yesteryear. Both share a desire for a special spiritual experience, one born out of closeness to the origins of his or her faith.

“I’m Catholic, I practice, and I want to know where my Lord was born and lived,” says Ms. Fraschini.

“When you see this landscape and its sites, and then you read the Bible, you really see these places. When I am back at home and during Mass, the priest reads about the baptism of Jesus, in my mind I will see the place.”

Perhaps Jordan’s most proven marketing strategy, one that neither Israel, Palestine nor Egypt can emulate is the Hashemite family.

“The king and the queen are the most important ambassadors we have,” says Mr. Sawalha. “When Her Majesty [Queen Rania] goes to Spain, or goes to the United Kingdom or France, she’s in the media. The same is true when His Majesty [King Abdullah] goes. Immediately, there’s interest that follows them.”

Whenever they visit another country, Mr. Sawalha explains, people from that country instantly query Jordan on the internet, which leads to hits on the Nebo Tours web site.

“We have bookings coming out of that. It’s incredible.”

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Contributor Nicholas Seeley reports for ONE.



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Tags: Jordan Christian-Muslim relations Pilgrimage/pilgrims Tourism