Muscat: The number of tourists coming to Oman has more than doubled in the last 10 years, according to data issued by the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI).
With expansion in the tourism sector currently being pursued as part of Oman’s Tanfeedh policy, which aims to expand the economy and take it away from fossil-fuel based sources of income, tourism is one of five sectors being developed in order for the Sultanate to build a sustainable non-oil future.
According to NCSI data, Oman welcomed 3.24 million visitors in 2018, up from 1.54 million in 2008. Five years ago in 2014 this figure stood at 2.23 million. Both the amount of money and the amount of time spent by tourists on average has nearly quadrupled in that time.
In 2008, net inbound tourism expenditure was OMR 178.65 million and by 2018 it was OMR 679.18 million. This brought the average net spend per tourist up from OMR 116 to OMR 209.5. In addition, tourists who visited Oman in 2008 spent just 5.1 nights on average during their stay, while by 2018 tourists were staying for 8.8 nights on average.
The Ministry of Tourism recently outlined its strategy and latest achievements in a report, writing: “The strategy has identified 14 suggested areas for tourist clusters, each of which has a package of stay and entertainment projects and each of these areas has a group of draws and landmarks that have a good level of service, opportunities for accommodation, transport, infrastructure and auxiliary services for tourists.
“The ministry laid many investment opportunities for the sector from 2012-2018, in order to grow it by finding products and services that work with the diverse nature and climate in Oman, evaluating all areas and laying down land for investments only after making sure that they were ready and that investment opportunities in the area were studied from an economic and social perspective,” the report added.
The ministry studies every project carefully, with a host of studies carried out in order to improve the chances of success, as well as that the area won’t be harmed as a result of the projects' success.
“The studies include a study of the area and surrounding tourist projects and investment applications and topography in the area. These studies play a part in which type of tourism project is chosen and which requirements for investors are made. If the piece of land can be made into different types of projects then the tender will be put in general terms and the type of project will be chosen by the investor.”
The ministry has also said that its aims are more holistic than merely drawing in foreign tourism, also encompassing touristic, economic, social and environmental goals.
“The ministry’s goals include touristic goals such as catering to local tourism by focusing on entertainment options, working to connect multiple tourism projects so they can offer one unique experience, lengthening the stay of tourists by creating connected tourism projects across governorates. There are also economic goals, such as increasing the tourism sector’s share of the GDP, offering jobs for local communities and encouraging investment in the sector.
“There are also social goals, such as partnering with the community for the development of tourism and encouraging cooperation between companies. In terms of the environment, the ministry aims to have tourism companies that compete with one another in protecting the ecosystem and implementing sustainable development efforts that keep the environment safe,” the report added.
Said Al Arafati, a tour guide catering to French tourists in Oman, said that one of the wonderful things about tourism in Oman is that there are different tourism seasons for different types of tourists.
Al Arafati told Times of Oman: “I cater to French tourists in Muscat and so most of my business is not in the summer for them. They want to see Muscat and explore the city and different areas in Oman."
“I would say that business booms for me in Decemeber, rather than in the summer. They want to flee the heat in the summer and want to stay away from especially cold winters in December and so they come to Muscat.”
Talking to Times of Oman, Daniel Ebo, Area Director of Sales and Marketing at InterContinental Hotels Group Oman, said that there has been an impact on occupancy at their hotels due to the boost in the number of toursists.
"The diversification of Oman's economy has provided a boost in tourism. There is a great interest now in the country, especially with its beautiful natural resources and the world-known Omani hospitality. This has obviously had an impact on our hotel occupancy and revenue."
"There has been more demand for both business and leisure tourism, especially in the peak season. The surge in tourism has greatly increased our focus on delivering a high-quality service and luxury facilities. Hence, we have embarked on a series of room enhancements."
"The first phase has been completed and we are now on the second phase, which is expected to be completed by the end of October. It includes state of the art facilities, new technology and modern furnishings and it has received positive feedback from both our loyal and new guests," Ebo said.