Oman expects huge boost in tourist numbers during winter

Local tourism events and coming Fifa World Cup will give country a much needed shot in the arm

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Oman is expecting to attract a huge number of international tourists, as the winter season makes it a perfect destination for outdoor activities.

Besides the great weather, the country is expected to welcome more visitors thanks to the Fifa World Cup that will kick off in Doha, Qatar, in November.

National airline Oman Air has already signed a co-operation agreement with Qatar Airways in the lead-up to the event, and per the agreement, 21 daily flights will be operated between Muscat and Doha.

The Ministry of Heritage and Tourism reported that there will be more than 50 events hosted in Oman in the coming months that are expected to attract more than 300,000 people.

Oman's struggling tourism sector showed signs of revival after the country reopened its land border with the UAE on September 1, 2021. Since then, thousands of people have travelled from the Emirates to Oman.

In the first five months of 2021, with Covid restrictions in place, only 113,000 people visited Oman. The number shot up by 602 per cent this year, with 794,000 travellers coming to the sultanate.

Of these, 301,249 visitors came from the UAE — the highest of any country.

Extensive marketing campaigns and trade shows in foreign countries have also bolstered Oman's appeal overseas.

Jamal Muhammad Ali Al Balooshi, a shop owner at Mutrah Souq, says business is picking up. Victor Besa / The National

Azzan Al Busaidi, the undersecretary for tourism, said the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism has undertaken recent promotional tours in India, Germany and the UK.

“We want to attract tourists to Oman. It is a destination to visit in any season and famous for its natural beauty, cultural heritage and hospitality,” he said.

Mr Al Busaidi added that there has been a 39.3 per cent jump in the number of Omanis working in the hospitality sector, from 3,752 in 2020 to 5,230 last year.

“The tourism sector can provide more jobs and investment opportunities,” he said at a meeting to mark World Tourism Day on Tuesday.

“It shows resilience and the ability to recover quickly from a setback. We've seen a substantial increase in the number of visitors, hotel revenue and occupancy rates.”

Oman's ambitious plan to boost tourism

Oman expects to bring in more than 9 billion rials ($22.5 billion) a year from tourism by 2040 as it bids to diversify its economy away from oil.

One of the economic pillars of Oman's 2040 Economic Vision is to increase revenue from tourism.

The contribution of the tourism sector to gross domestic product was 2.4 per cent in 2021, and the country aims to increase it to 5 per cent by 2030 and 10 per cent by 2040.

The goal is to increase the number of visitors to 11.7 million by 2040 by investing $51 billion.

The National Centre for Statistics and Information said that 652,000 people visited Oman last year; 874,444 visited in 2020; 3,506,441 in 2019 and 3,241,757 in 2018.

Omani merchants hope business will improve as more people visit.

Jamal Al Belooshi, an Omani merchant who owns four shops at Mutrah Souq in Muscat, told The National that more tourists are visiting the traditional market after the easing of pandemic restrictions.

“There is a steady flow of tourists as the souq is a must-visit destination when travelling to Oman,” said Mr Al Belooshi.

“Before Covid-19, Omanis and residents used to go outside the country to enjoy their time but during travel restrictions, people from different parts of Oman started coming to the souq to buy goods,” he added.

“Business is flourishing again.”

In 2021, Lonely Planet ranked Oman among the world's top 10 destinations to travel to in 2022.

The sultanate is known for its natural beauty, Bedouin values and rich heritage.

Must-see attractions in Oman

Souq Mutrah

Nizwa fort and Souq

Bahla fort

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Musandam beaches

Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve

Shatti Al Qurum

Wadi Bani Khalid

Wadi Shab

Wadi Damm

Jebel Akhdar

The National Museum

Jebel Shams

Majlis Al Jinn cave

Royal Opera House Muscat

Sharqiya sands (Bidiyah)

Dimaniyat Island

Updated: October 03, 2022, 8:18 AM
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