Of late, we’ve been bombarded with news of travel bans, laptop bans, and State Department warnings regarding travel to the Middle East. So why are more Americans choosing to travel there? In the last year alone, Intrepid Travel has seen a 70 percent growth in U.S. bookings to Egypt, Israel, and Jordan, leading the company to double down on 2017 departures. Now offering over 45 itineraries across the Middle East—including Oman and the Palestinian territories—Intrepid is just one of many companies hoping to dispel popular cultural bias, ultimately changing the conversation from that of fear to understanding.

“We believe in the power of travel to connect people and break down barriers,” says Intrepid Travel CEO James Thornton. “Our travelers are making an important statement with continued bookings to the Middle East. They do not want to be told where to go and what to do, and they’re clearly not being deterred by the travel ban. They acknowledge travel in the Middle East is not defined by a single country or experience, and they are using travel to create a greater understanding of the world we all share, seeing beyond media caricatures.”

Similarly to Thornton, Adventure Travel Trade Association president Shannon Stowell believes in the power of travelers as citizen-diplomats, which led the consortium to host the AdventureNEXT Near East conference at the Dead Sea in Jordan, an event held in May, with the goal to bring travel-industry professionals together to discuss the future of travel in Jordan and the Middle East. “The Middle East is a very important region to visit for many reasons: It’s where the history of man, religion, and global issues merge.” says Stowell. “Now more than ever, we need people having positive firsthand experiences with each other to move towards peace and friendship versus conflict.”

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