This new financing vehicle is open to any small- and medium-sized tourism enterprise, whether the owners are Islamic or not, that meets the conditions and limitations of the IIAB. Iyad Asali, the bank’s general manager, recognizes the widespread impact that Islamic banking can have on Jordan’s economic growth, saying, “The Islamic International Arab Bank’s mission as a Sharia-compliant financial institution is to play a role in economic development in [Jordan] by encouraging projects, which will result in increasing GDP, and reduce unemployment among young people.”

These new Sharia-compliant financing options will do just that, strengthening businesses, boosting local economies, expanding tourism products, and creating employment opportunities in the country. Other banks could possibly follow suit and also provide credit to small- and medium-sized tourism enterprises.

“It is through small- and medium-sized enterprises that local communities benefit directly from tourism, and this new loan product will help such businesses grow and benefit tourists as well,” explained Russell Bauer, director of the Economic Development and Energy Office at USAID/Jordan. “This Sharia-compliant form of financing ensures that tourism entrepreneurs have access to all possible types of financing in Jordan.”

As businesses grow and offer additional tourism products — such as higher-quality hotels and new guided tours to Jordan’s many attractions — tourists will have better experiences in the country and encourage others to visit as well. But these small- and medium-sized tourism enterprises need a solid financial foundation first.

In addition to partnering with the IIAB to create Sharia-compliant financing, the BEST program also provides technical assistance to the owners of tourism projects. For instance, business owners receive lessons on preparing requests for funding, determining project feasibility, and developing their skills in financial and operations management.

The IIAB financing is new and innovative, and it contributes to the numerous ways that the BEST program is improving access to finance for these companies.

“This partnership between the BEST project and IIAB has established Sharia-compliant financial loans for the tourism sector for the first time in Jordan, and very likely in the region,” said Ibrahim Osta, chief of party of BEST.

With this new funding, Jordan can hope to see a change in the direction of its tourism industry.