AMMAN — The number of visitors to the Baptism Site, recorded at more than 170,000 through November of this year, has almost tripled in the last four years, according to the commission that oversees the site.
However, Director General of the Baptism Site Commission Rustom Mkhijan told The Jordan Times that the numbers seen in 2019 are "definitely not even close to our target, or to what the site deserves, being among the most important sites for Christians, if not the most important, as the place where Christianity physically started after the baptism of Jesus”.
In 2015, the site, located on the eastern side of the Jordan River, witnessed an approximately 30-per cent decrease in visitors, standing at almost 66,000. However, the commission has since registered an annual increase rate of over 23 per cent.
Mkhjian noted that among the most important drivers for this steady increase was the visit of Pope Francis and the site s inclusion in UNESCO s World Heritage site list in 2015.
He added that other factors, including low-price carriers as well as "real and good cooperation and coordination between all stakeholders", also boosted the site s visitor traffic.
In the past 10 years, the site s worst year in terms of visitor numbers was 2011, which saw a 42-per cent decrease in the number of visitors in comparison with 2010.
The comparative chart showing annual visitor numbers, of which a copy has been made available to The Jordan Times, gives a “clear indication about the high and low seasons”.
According to the chart, March, April and May usually witness a significant rise in numbers, while September, October and November are considered to be the peak season. The remaining six months are considered to be the low season.
The site attracts visitors from all over the world, with the highest percentage coming from Europe, at around 57 per cent. The US comes in second, at around 24 per cent, and East Asia is third at around 10 per cent. Jordanians make up around 5 per cent of visitors to the site, citizens of other Arab countries around 3 per cent and Africans around 1 per cent.
"The Baptism Site has great messages for mankind," Mkhjian said. "It’s true that Christianity started right here after the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, but some of the churches specifically built at the place where Jesus was baptised were built during the Islamic period too. This a great indication of coexistence and harmony here in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” he concluded.