EBRD and partnering banks develop the Ayla Village in Jordan

By Nibal Zgheib

 EBRD and partnering banks develop the Ayla Village in Jordan

Regeneration project aims to boost tourism in Red Sea town of Aqaba

To unlock Jordan’s potential as a tourism destination the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is teaming up with Capital Bank of Jordan and Societé Générale Jordan to support the Ayla Oasis project, regeneration plan in the city of Aqaba on the Red Sea.

Under the project masterplan, the construction of Ayla (which derives its name from the ancient name of the city of Aqaba) will lead to redevelopment of the city’s waterfront as a new, sustainable destination for tourism. Aqaba is Jordan’s only coastal city and a major tourist attraction, which Ayla will further enhance by adding sustainable hospitality, retail and entertainment components. Together with Wadi Rum and Petra, Aqaba is one of the country’s most visited sites. Ayla will serve as a base for international tourists visiting this popular triangle of attractions.

As part of the project the EBRD will provide a US$60 million loan, while the two commercial banks will contribute US$20 million each, for the development of Ayla Village, which will serve as the vibrant hub of Ayla Oasis. Investments include the construction of a public promenade merging the old centre of Aqaba with the planned souk area as a new meeting place for locals and visitors, offering modern retail and entertainment space. Two new hotels will serve locals as well as international visitors and one will be managed by Hyatt International Corporation, a leading global brand in the tourism and hospitality industry.

The infrastructure of the hospitality, commercial and residential buildings at Ayla will be designed to use renewable energy produced on site. The loans will contribute to the use of climate resilience solutions and techniques that will lead to significant energy and water savings as well as reducing carbon emissions which is particularly important given Jordan is in the group of most water scarce countries in the world and imports about 95% of its energy.

Resources provided by the EBRD Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) Shareholder Fund will help address the issue of youth unemployment and access to training and will contribute to the employability of the local population. The project will provide training for young people and women, transferring know-how to the local hospitality sector. These capacity building exercises are in line with the Bank’s and the UN World Tourism Organization’s strategy to enhance economic inclusion.

EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti, said: “We are proud to support a project that will develop Jordan’s potential as a tourism destination, one of the country’s major assets. In particular, we are proud that this will be done in an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable way. We are confident that this investment will help Aqaba become a prime destination on the Red Sea.”

Sahl Dudin, Managing Director of Ayla Oasis Development Company said: “This credit facility deal comes at a time when our highly anticipated project is entering an exciting stage. This deal is testimony not only to our credit worthiness but also to the viability of Ayla as a crucial component of Aqaba’s attraction as an international tourist destination”

Jordan became a member of the Bank in 2012. To date the EBRD has committed US$ 475 million across 25 projects in various sectors of the economy in addition to US$ 95 million worth of trade facilitation credit lines with local banks. Through the EBRD’s Small Business Support the Bank has also initiated 95 technical assistance capacity-building projects that directly benefit the country’s small and medium-sized enterprises.