Oman swears by responsible tourism
The number of hotels grew by 12.3 per cent in 2017 – 18, resulting in a 7.8 per cent growth in the amount of rooms available in the country.
The most resounding growth, however, is the number of Khareef season Salalah visitors, which was recorded at 28 per cent. Recent industry reports have projected a sustained annual increase in these figures as Oman’s reputation for hospitality, culture and heritage continues to grow.
Salem Bin Adey Al Mamari, director general of tourism promotion, Oman Ministry of Tourism, said: “The recent growth of the tourism sector in the Sultanate is very pleasing and is the direct result of sustained campaigns, initiatives and programs by the ministry to raise the country’s profile and promote investment in the sector. These efforts fall in line with the Oman Tourism Strategy to welcome 11 million tourists by 2040.”
In an exclusive interview with TTN, the director general elaborates: “Sometimes people ask me, do you need 20 years to reach this target? And I tell them, yes, we do.
“We are not into numbers – we are trying to attract quality travellers. We are all in for responsible tourism and the responsible tourist.
“We are not in a hurry; we are trying to develop Oman in a sustainable and responsible way, not to damage the environment, not to damage nature, not to mar our smiles, our customs, our food, our music…
“We welcome everyone to come to Oman but we appreciate those responsible tourists who come to Oman to understand the country, its people and its traditions, and who help in preserving that for future generations.”
This strong message of sustainability and responsibility in tourism is rare in the Arab world.
“Besides, we are confident in achieving these numbers. Oman Tourism has been part of ITB Berlin for 32 years now, and for ITB Berlin 2020, we have been chosen as a partner country, the first one in the Arab world. No doubt, being the partner country of ITB Berlin 2020 will expand our reach not only in the European markets but the world at large.”
The ministry’s target audience includes local travellers, GCC visitors and international tourists; while the upcoming summer campaigns will revolve around promoting popular destinations such as Jebel Akhdar, Khareef Dhofar, Al Ashkharah, Jebel Shams and other tourism spots characterised by moderate temperatures during summer season.
In April this year, Oman had already reached 3.2 million tourists.
The visa application process, which has been enhanced with the implementation of a new e-visa system, has helped fuel the increase in visitors. Under the new platform, the entire process keeps pace with technical advancements through a simplified approach in obtaining visas. Furthermore, the strategic expansion and renovation of Muscat International Airport has increased capacity to accommodate the increase of visitors in the country.
The ministry will target a variety of segments such as adventure tourism, cultural tourism, family tourism and business and corporate tourism. With the increase in tourism market-based representatives, the ministry also aims to increase direct flights to and from Oman in the near future and diversify tourism offerings to include leisure, travel and MICE segments.
Accommodation wise, 31 hotels, motels and resorts are scheduled to open in the country this year, boosting the hospitality sector’s portfolio with more than 3,260 rooms. Reports mention that 595 apartments, 13 green lodges, 18 guest houses and 2 heritage house projects are also currently in development. Furthermore, leading hotel brand JW Marriott has announced that it is set to open its maiden establishment in Oman in the third quarter of 2019. The 304-room, five-star hotel, which is being built by the Oman Tourism Development Company, is strategically located besides the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Key partnerships forged by the ministry this year include those with Wego, flydubai, Holiday Factory, Air Arabia and Musafir.com, among others.
HOSPITALITY INCENTIVE IN MUSANDAM
A new royal directive issued by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, the Sultan of Oman, gives tax breaks to any new investor who wishes to establish a tourism project in Musandam, Oman. Starting last month, investors have been exempted from customs duties covering building materials, tools and equipment that are essential during the construction phase of their tourism-related projects.
The decree also includes exemption from the four per cent tourism tax, the five per cent municipal tax and the 15 per cent company income tax--starting from the actual start of the project to its first ten years of operations.