MUSCAT: New figures show Oman continued to enjoy an increase in tourists, with an additional hundreds of thousands visiting the Sultanate.
Some 2.5 million visitors arrived in Oman in 2016, an increase through the end of October of 300,000, or 15 per cent more than during the same period in 2015, according to data recently released by the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI).
The reason for the increase, say hoteliers, is because Oman’s natural beauty is a major attraction, and is what makes the country stand out from the rest of the nations in the region
“This has more to do with what Oman has to offer,” said Praveen George, General Manager for Sales and Marketing at Al Falaj Hotel. “Oman, as a country, has a lot more to offer than any other country in the GCC because of the natural beauty that we have. We also see that there is a lot more emphasis on tourism, that was not here earlier on.
“More budgets are being allocated for tourism, local airlines are participating in a lot of activities related to tourism, and Salalah has also had a huge boost because of the airport there,”he added.
“During the last Khareef Festival in Salalah, visitors increased by about 33 per cent. There was a huge number of tourists because the airport also means that the number of chartered flights to Salalah has increased.
“That’s made it a popular destination in Oman, and once this picks up we need to put such efforts into other locations, also,” noted George.
Although Oman did see an increase in overall tourist numbers, October saw a decrease in visitors, with only 192,000 visiting the Sultanate last year, as opposed to 215,000 in 2015. Of these 2.5 million visitors, 1.24 million, or slightly less than half of all tourists, came from the other GCC countries, while 244,292 tourists travelled from India. A further 133,706 were of British origin, with Germany (98,061) and the Philippines (93,970) both contributing significant numbers.
“Oman has an intriguing past, steeped in myth and folklore,” added Earle Enriquez, Marketing and Communications Executive for Al Baleed Resort, Salalah.
“Oman is a great mix of culture, history and adventure for travellers who are keen to explore, while sand beaches, shady palm trees and calm waters help those who wish to unwind.
“From historic forts and citadels, endless dunes and untouched beaches, to soaring mountains, vibrant bazaars and lush coconut and banana plantations, Oman features some colourful stories, intertwined with history and legend,” he added.
“During the season known as Khareef, from June through September, Salalah is visited by the Indian Ocean monsoon, with rain blanketing the region, turning the brown coastal plains and mountains into a vibrant green, and visitors witnessing beautiful pastures, waterfalls and verdant forests,” said Enriquez, touching on what Salalah offers tourists.
“Guests can venture into the mountains, which come alive with wildlife, including ibex, gazelles, hyena and Arabian leopards, whilst birdwatchers can spot vast flocks of flamingos, herons and egrets,” she added. “The festival celebrates the monsoon season with many concerts, traditional performances and cultural displays.
“Salalah is also home to the revered frankincense tree, the cause for celebration and trade for a millennia in Oman,” noted Enriquez.