17 Local Guides Certified to Lead Bird Watching Tours, Boost Nature Tourism

9 June 2014

Amman – Seventeen tour guides graduated today from Jordan’s first Certified Bird Watching Training Course as specialized bird-watching guides.  This certification will enable them to lead groups of international birdwatchers on tours around Jordan’s important bird areas. The training initiative offered by Baraka Consulting for Sustainable Tourism Development, was supported by USAID Economic Growth Through Sustainable Tourism Project, and is done in partnership and with the support of the Royal Society for Conservation of Nature (RSCN), BirdLife International, United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), Tourism Board and was endorsed by Ministry of Tourism.

H.E. Prof. Nidal Katamin, Minister of Labor, and Minister of Tourism said, “Capacity building is one of the foundations of tourism development and the creation of jobs in the tourism industry in Jordan. We are happy to support specialized trainings as the Birwatching training and encourage more specialization among Jordan’s guides.”

Ms. Muna Haddad, Managing Director of Baraka noted the importance of guide trainings to the development of the tourism sector in Jordan: “Our guide’s knowledge and ability to tell the story of Jordan’s heritage, culture, nature, and people is the driving force to grow the tourism market and to increase return visitation. In this training we focused on transferring the knowledge of one of the elements that Jordan can offer its guests and hope our graduates will use it to enhance their classical trips as well as leading specialized trips.”

“We are pleased to see a commitment to developing ecotourism and more specifically Birdwatching tourism in Jordan. The country is uniquely situated on the bird migratory route along the Great Rift Valley and is home to some unique and globally endangered bird species. We recognize that tourism can bring attention to the status of these birds and will encourage local and international enthusiasts to conserve and protect this natural heritage we have," said Khaled Irani, Chairman of BirdLife International, Chairman of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature. He added:  “Baraka and RSCN with the help of our donors and supporters will continue to train Jordan’s field guides to increase their knowledge about the birds of Jordan, and to better understand the needs of specialized birdwatchers. This initiative is also contributing to conservation efforts that combat threats to Jordan’s birds.”

“Jordan has a great deal to offer in the way of birdwatching and is an untapped market. The Certified Birdwatching Training Course will create new guide niches while existing guides will have a new source of income through birding tours,” said Beth Paige, USAID Mission Director.

UNDP is proud to take part in the development of the training curricula which is the first of its kind in the region and to encourage young professionals to conserve their natural heritage and generate new sources of income," said Zena Ali- Ahmad, UNDP Country Director.

Nature guide and graduate Nadia Al-Alul said of the course: “We had the opportunity to visit twelve key sites across the kingdom with experts in this field and specifically focus on the needs of birdwatchers as a tourism market. This course has shown tour guides in Jordan what to expect, how to plan and execute a professional birdwatching tour for enthusiast bird lovers, and so has raised the bar for such an experience across the board.”

Birdwatching is the largest form of nature-based travel and one of the most rapidly growing pastimes in the world, and can play a significant part in sustainable tourism by encouraging the conservation and protection of birds. Put into perspective: of the 48 million birders in the US, three million a year take international birding trips, while trips and equipment generate over $82 billion annually. Hindered by a lack of trained and specialized guides to lead birdwatching groups, Jordan has yet to capitalize on its full potential to attract the lucrative bird watching market. Jordan is uniquely situated on the bird migratory route along the Great Rift Valley and home to some unique and globally endangered bird species; with 434 recorded species of birds (98 rare) and 27 Important Birds Areas (IBA).