Since the site’s listing as a New World Wonder in 2007, visitor numbers have increased and although this is good for the local economy, it has put a strain on the site and existing services, which were not ready for the sudden growth in numbers. Since 2008, USAID’s Jordan Tourism Development Project
has been working with park management to address these and other issues.
A plan for developing Petra as a tourist attraction was created and implementation began. One of the first outcomes of this is a new ranger system within the park, which has been set up to improve safety for visitors and help protect the site. Before the new ranger team came into action, the site was poorly protected, with only six guards who were not properly trained, supervising the site.
A team of 30 rangers was assembled, trained, and deployed within the park. They were selected from more than 200 applicants from the local community, and the initiative has provided employment opportunities for local residents, who have the advantage of knowing the site and its surroundings inside out. The team will be expanded by a further 10 rangers and possibly more in the future.
The rangers began work in May 2009, immediately after completing a three-week ranger training course sponsored by USAID, along with other training such as first aid, English for tourism, and hospitality skills, which will enable them to interact better with tourists and positively affect their Petra experience. The role of the park ranger is to protect the archaeology and natural resources of the site and help ensure that visitors have a good experience by enforcing park rules.
“Having park rangers at Petra has been a long-term recommendation of the U.S. National Park Service,” explained Lawrence Belli, a retired park service superintendent, who oversaw two weeks of training in ranger skills, along with four other U.S. national park rangers. “We covered over 20 topics ranging from emergency evacuations, providing information to visitors, enforcing the park rules, locating missing people, cooperation with other agencies, including tourist police and civil defense officers,” said Belli. Each ranger was provided with a ranger manual in Arabic and a backpack with equipment and a first aid kit, temporary uniforms, and badges.
Visitors to Petra today will see the blue-clad rangers throughout the park, who are safeguarding monuments and preventing violations by visitors who might harm the antiquities and vendors operating in the site. The system has already made a significant difference to conservation efforts to ensure that the historic World Heritage site of Petra is preserved for generations to come.