How Meaningful Travel helps drive Sustainable Tourism

In 2018, the Jordan Tourism Board, North America hosted The Meaningful Travel Summit with Tourism Cares, bringing together key travel influencers from across Canada and the US. The purpose of the summit was to create a tourism experience where local communities can benefit from tourism dollars and where we could help disperse visitors to less traveled locations throughout the country.  This is when the concept of the “Meaningful Travel Map of Jordan” was born.

I believe sustainable tourism development is key to ensuring resilience for our industry, our economy, and our future.  Jordan is committed towards a carbon-neutral, and more socially resilient and regenerative tourism economy – -including new business models through digitalization.  This provides a way to ensure a fair distribution of tourism benefits as economic recovery through the visitor economy is key to our development as a global destination.

As many global destinations are doing, we need to look at the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a guideline as we start to build back our tourism economies. We are being careful not to accelerate to get numbers but to focus on slow and steady growth so that we do not exacerbate issues of over-tourism and lean into mass tourism models.

The launch of the Meaningful Travel Map

Through the launch of the Meaningful Travel Map we linked to the newly created Jordan Trail, identified social enterprises that would benefit from the tourism economy, and began to create itineraries.  The Tourism Cares Summit provided us with the opportunity to test out those itineraries with industry experts.

For example, after a visit to Petra, visitors can create meals with a local kitchen or learn how to weave baskets and rugs while socializing with local community members.  Farm to table meals and cultural exchanges are abundant along the trail. The connections and learning relationships we experienced through this initial launch were incredible for both the traveler and host and continue today.  And the economic impact has grown to be enormous.  Here are just a few of the benefits that have occurred since we launch the Meaningful Travel Map in just a few short years ago:

  • New day cares having been opened in the region, allowing more women to work and earn money.
  • Computers have been purchased so that students have a place to study.
  • Children are learning new skills including how to reuse and recycle materials used in cultural exchanges.
  • And thanks to the popularity of the Jordan Trail and media attention regarding the Meaningful Travel Map, over 70 local villages are now benefiting from hikers exploring the country in a very sustainable way.

It is powerful when you see how tourism can be a force for good, and immediately experience the return on investment.  In creating this map, we also created educational opportunities for the social enterprises that filter into the local communities. These education centers around sustainability use the UN Sustainable Development goals as a guideline specifically looking at employment for women, environment, and climate. The map also offers the traveler an experience and a connection that is authentic and rare to find in travel today.

The future for Jordan Tourism

Looking to the future for Jordan Tourism, our resilience will depend on distribution not only on tourism dollars but also continuing to disperse tourism throughout the destination so that more Jordanians experience the benefits of a growing visitor economy. It will depend on continuing to be creative with our itineraries to keep bottlenecks from happening and digitalization to ensure that numbers are captured to ensure the balance between conservation and nature is sustained.

The Meaningful Travel Map of Jordan is just one example of a sustainable tourism initiative that can drive economic well-being for local communities. It is an example we are very proud of in Jordan and are pleased to see other countries emulate this experience.  For us this is the way forward as we build a sustainable and regenerative tourism industry for our country.


Malia is the Managing Director of the Jordan Tourism Board in North America (JTBNA), began handling tourism for the Jordanian government in the U.S. as tourism attaché in Washington in 1995. She was a key participant in creating the country’s first tourism office in North America, which was launched in 1997. She has been responsible for opening the North and South American markets for Jordan tourism. She helped with opening the Russian and the Chinese markets and has been instrumental in increasing revenue to Jordan through her marketing expertise. She is very passionate about sustainable tourism and helped in the creation of the Meaningful Travel Map of Jordan. Malia moved to the US in 1990 and handled the press for the Jordan Information Bureau.

Malia currently serves as Chair of the Board of Directors Tourism Cares; member of the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s (ATTA) Board of Directors; TCS World Travel Innovation Board; Petra National Foundation (PNF) Board of Directors, USTOA’s Destination for Destination Co-Chair and serves on The Destination Task Force Board.

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