Jordan 'delightful country', say travel agents

By Sophie Hazelhurst

It would be a tragedy if an attack on New Zealand tourists in the Jordan capital of Amman stopped people visiting the "delightful" country, say kiwi travel agents.

A lone gunman opened fire on a group of tourists in Amman yesterday, killing a British man and wounding six other people, including a New Zealand woman.

Jordanian police have arrested the gunman and he was being questioned today.

Adventure Travel owner Karl Woolcott, in Wellington, specialises in tours to the region and said he had been sending New Zealanders to Jordan for 10 years without incident.

"I'm sending a family of five there at Christmas time, with all their kids under 10.

"I talked them into going - I certainly wouldn't do that if I thought there was any danger."

Mr Woolcott said Jordan was a country rich with activities and places to visit, similar to neighbouring Turkey and Egypt although far less populated.

He said it would be a shame if people got the wrong idea about Jordan, based on what he saw as a "one-off" incident.

He said Petra, the ancient city carved out of a cliff face in south-west Jordan, was one of the top spots to visit in the Middle East.

"It's incredible.

"It's one of the absolute must-sees in the area."

Mr Woolcott said visitors to Jordan usually only spent a day or so in the capital before travelling throughout the country.

Many of his clients did two to three-week tours beginning in Amman and ending in Cairo, in Egypt.

Terrorist attacks in the capital last November, which saw bomb blasts rip through three international hotels, had not deterred travellers, who he said understood these attacks could happen anywhere in the world.

His comments were echoed by Innovative Travel Company national sales and marketing manager Carol Wisker, in Auckland.

She said Jordan was slowly becoming more popular as a travel destination.

"Jordan is the peacemaker in that region really, it's well known for its safety.

"More and more people hear about Jordan because it is a delightful place to visit," she said.

She said the people of Jordan were friendly and hospitable.

She said it would be wrong if people responded to the lone act of a "madman" by turning away from the country.

Terrorist attacks were more likely to occur in places which drew more international attention, she said.

The travel agents' advice matches that on the Lonely Planet website, which says the region's "bad reputation" has kept visitors away from Jordan.

Visitors should not be misled by the rumours about the peaceful country, the website says.

- NZPA

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