MUSCAT // Emirati tourists are paying a 25 per cent premium to rent villas in Oman because of a perception by local landlords that they are rich, property agents say.
Oman's tourism ministry says 35 per cent of its about one million visitors a year are Emirati.
"Landlords leave us instructions to charge more to Emiratis than any other nationalities," said Jaber Al Jabri, who owns Al Zawari Homes in Muscat.
"They say that UAE nationals are loaded and they can pay 25 per cent more than the normal rate.
"Of course, we make sure that Emiratis don't know they are paying extra."
Its close proximity and common heritage make Oman popular with Emiratis, and about 60 per cent of visitors from the UAE drive to get there.
The going rate for a three-bedroom unserviced villa is about 60 rials (Dh573) a night, but Emiratis are typically charged between 80 and 90 rials, said Khalaf Al Masroori, another Omani agent.
"Emiratis are just next door and some of them they only have petrol to pay for their travelling expenses," Mr Al Masroori said. "So the general belief among landlords is that they get a cheap holiday in Oman."
Some landlords say the increase is justified because of the number of people staying.
"Emiratis come with large families," said Salim Al Mashari, who owns two villas near the central town of Jabal Al Akhdar, home to Oman's tallest mountain.
"Europeans come over with two children while Emiratis travel in two cars taking their in-laws as well and occupy just one house. That's the reason we hike the daily rent."
Ahmed Al Naamani, 39, a resident of Al Ain who visits Oman at least twice a year with his family of nine, is happy to rent only one villa.
"We are just being ripped off but we don't mind," said Mr Al Naamani, a drill pusher for a UAE oil company. "I guess it is still cheaper for a family of nine to drive over for a few days than to fly to the Far East."
Rana Omar, 25, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi, says Omanis are more aware of what people earn.
"There are some sensitivities when it comes to salaries," Ms Omar said. "If they know that an Emirati is getting more than them in Oman, they would be mad. Or even if they get more work to do. Not all Omanis are like that, of course."
But she has not noticed that Emiratis are charged more for holiday homes.
"Most Emiratis come here during the Eid holidays and it's a [high] season, so naturally prices go up," Ms Omar said.
Even then, said Moza Hamad from Ras Al Khaimah, everything was still relatively cheap.
"When you are on holiday you expect to pay more," Ms Hamad said. "And they have shops, like Zara and Mango, where prices are set, and many other places where the prices do not change. So no, I would not say they raise their prices when they see us."
Other Emiratis are lucky enough to have Omani relatives.
"Many in my family go to see family who already have houses, so they don't need to deal with real estate," said Ameera A, from Al Ain.