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Jordan Inbound Tour Operators Association

Ajloun Site visit to explore VolunTourism in the region

Monday, May 16, 2011, representatives from the Jordan Enterprise Development Corporation (JEDCO), the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Synergos, IDEAL for Developing Cultural and Tourism Routes, Zikra Initiative, VolunTourism.org, and the Jordan Inbound Tour Operators Association (JITOA) gathered at the Ajloun Reserve to discuss the potential of VolunTourism in the region. The discussion centered on what initial steps would be necessary to develop a unique VolunTourism program for Ajloun to take advantage of this growing, global niche market.

The meeting represented, in part, a follow on to the VolunTourism workshops that were hosted in Amman in January 2010 and have served as the foundation of the second phase of a grant for JITOA supported by the European Commission (EU) funded – Jordan Service Modernization Program(JSMP)/JEDCO. The initiative, “VolunTourism Jordan,” is being established to identify unique voluntary service options and concomitant touristic activities that provide ‘voluntourists’ to the country a sense of the culture, arts, history, geography, and recreational opportunities throughout. Ajloun may offer an excellent pilot region for jumpstarting this initiative.

Some of the participants also had an opportunity to visit different locations in and around Ajloun including the Soap House, the Biscuit House, and private residences, one of which was a farm near Ajloun Castle. These visits served to emphasize the breadth of service projects available, from agricultural service projects such as assisting farmers and residents with annual harvests of olives, to working with community residents to improve their English-language skills to enhance the interpretive experiences for international visitors to the region. Participants were also able to better understand the hosting capacity of the region – cabins at the Ajloun Reserve, homestays, bed and breakfasts, and a soon-to-be constructed Eco-camp. In terms of touristic activities, hiking with trail guides, learning about the preparations of handicrafts from local women, and visiting sites like Ajloun Castle are all available.

In the coming weeks, participants will reconvene to discuss how to proceed in the creation of a VolunTourism Master Plan for the region. These discussions will emphasize the challenges and opportunities and how to best connect with local residents to better understand those ideas which will most align with the goals and objectives they have as a community.

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