Muscat: Salalah, the land of frankincense clothed in lush greenery and its hills engulfed in white fog, was the most-sought destination of both nationals and expatriates in Oman to spend the Eid Al Fitr holidays which also coincided with the Khareef (monsoon) season, residents claimed.
"All the main tourist spots like Manreef cave, Mugshasyl beach and frankincense museum were brimming with visitors. Long queues of vehicles were seen on the roads which sometimes led to traffic jams. This time, the climate was perfect. Visitors were delighted to experience the drizzle and fog," KS Mohammed Ali, a long time resident in Salalah, said. According to a National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) report, 74,100 tourists had visited Salalah till July 29.
According to a tweet by the NCSI, only 60,000 visited Salalah during the same period in 2013.
"Of the visitors this year, more than 67 per cent were Omanis and the rest were from the neighbouring countries," the NCSI tweeted.
On July 1, quoting travel agents in Muscat, the Times of Oman reported that Salalah is the most sought after destination for both nationals and expatriates in Oman to spend their Eid Al Fitr holidays.
"For the Eid Al Fitr holidays, we have quite a good number of ticket bookings for Salalah. Lack of interest in foreign destinations due to lesser number of holidays and unavailability of tickets to these places is making travellers opt for Salalah," Raji DeMonte, general manager at Universal Travel and Tourism Agencies, said citing ticket booking figures.
Last year, the travel agents had a good many bookings for Iran and other Middle East countries. But this time that trend was not so visible.
The hoteliers are also in an upbeat mood after seeing the number of tourists growing.
"During the Eid holidays, we witnessed a huge rush. The occupancy rate was around 95 per cent. Mainly, our customers were from different Gulf Cooperation Council countries. We had special brunch offers. The climate is perfect and we are expecting more tourists during the season," Manuel Lebonian, general manager of Crowne Plaza Resort in Salalah, said.
Last month, Oman Air had also increased the number of Muscat-Salalah services from 52 flights per week to 84, to fly from July 24 till September 15, to cope with the increasing popularity of the destination during the Khareef season.
According to Khareef Salalah 2014 first statistical report, the number of visitors to the Dhofar governorate since the start of the monsoon stood at 31,128, including Omanis and international visitors who visited during June 21 to July 16, 2014 period.
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