UAE border opening gives Oman's tourism a shot in the arm

Holidaymakers from the Emirates have returned to the sultanate for the first time in three months

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Oman’s decision to reopen its land border with the UAE has helped hotel occupancy recover and thrown a lifeline to other businesses hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Oman closed its land border with the UAE in April, when it began to struggle with a surge in coronavirus cases.

But in the two weeks since the border reopened on September 1, hundreds of Emiratis have crossed into Oman for short holidays in the sultanate.

“The decision to reopen the border has been good for my apartment hotel, which relies heavily on Emirati tourists,” said Zaher Al Kindy, the owner of Panorama View Apartments in Muscat.

“I had almost zero tourists when the border was closed, but the phone has not stopped ringing with new bookings from different areas of the Emirates.”

International hotel chains in other areas of Oman also received a boost from Emirati visitors.

“I live near the Millennium Resort Hotel in Musannah and there have been so many cars with UAE number plates driving towards the hotel since the opening of the border. In the past three months, there were no UAE cars passing by my house driving to the hotel. It is good to see them coming back to Oman,” said Zuweina Al Rawahi, a resident of Musannah, in the Batinah region.

Omani restaurant owners have also reported a rise in trade.

“My UAE customers are back and that is a big relief to me. My restaurant is close to the beach and they always stop here for lunch or dinner on their way. Hardly any tables are empty during dining hours and that is how badly we have missed them in the last few months,” said Sameer Al Balushi, owner of the Seaview Restaurant in Muscat’s Seeb neighbourhood.

The tourists themselves are also happy to be back in Oman.

Mohammed Al Qassmi, 38, and his family drove from Sharjah to Muscat. He said he had been looking forward to the border reopening for weeks.

“It is good to be back in Oman,” said Mr Al Qassmi, who stayed in the Marriott Hotel in Muscat. “My family and I visit about five times a year and we drive to different towns for our holidays.

“Oman is cheaper and much nearer than going to the Far East.”

Oman currently allows visitors from the UAE and the rest of the world who have had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine to enter the country.

On Monday, Oman reported zero deaths for the first time this year, with less than a hundred new infections.

Three months ago, as the border was closed, the sultanate was reporting about 2,000 new cases a day.

Updated: November 01, 2021, 12:26 PM