Jordan tends to attract more tourists on average than other Arab countries because of its central geographic position in the region. Jerusalem is merely 1 hour away from the capital Amman, as are Jericho, Nazareth, and Bethlehem. Syria is a 2-hour drive to the north, as is Lebanon, and Egypt is only a ferry ride from the Gulf of Aqaba. Jordan itself has much to offer the adventurous traveler, including the magnificent "rose-red" city of Petra where the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was filmed, the Roman city of Jerash, and the Dead Sea, where one can float on top of the water because of its heavy salt content. Jordan is also home to the Jordan river, beautiful deserts, and the Gulf of Aqaba, which boasts some of the best diving in the world.
The Jordanian tourism sector has certainly not been developed to its full potential because of the continuous problems with regional security. When the peace treaty was signed between Jordan and Israel in 1994, tourism grew as more and more Israelis visited the country. However, the sector did not achieve the growth targets that were hoped for. Following the Gulf War in 1991, there was a slowdown in the number of tourists from Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries, but recently the deepening of ties between all the countries in the region has led to an increase in the number of Arab visitors to Jordan. In 1999 over 50 percent of tourists were Arab. The number of tourists from Europe and the United States fluctuates in response to the regional political situation. In 1995 roughly 84,000 U.S. tourists visited Jordan, and in 1999 this number increased to 100,000. Since the beginning of 2001 many tourists have canceled their holidays to the country due to the violence that erupted in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip in September 2000 between the Palestinians and the Israeli authorities.
Despite the daily uncertainties faced by the tourism sector, the government has continued to encourage hotel development in all parts of the country. Since 1995 many 5-star hotels have been built including the Holiday Inn, the Grand Hyatt, the Four Seasons, and the exclusive Movenpick Hotel on the Dead Sea coast, which boasts a luxurious health resort.