Oman tourism: More cruise ships not converting to more money for Muttrah souq sellers

Oman Saturday 14/January/2017 20:45 PM
By: Times News Service
Oman tourism: More cruise ships not converting to more money for Muttrah souq sellers

Muscat: Increasing numbers of cruise ships and tourists visiting Muttrah Souq are not converting into extra cash for shopkeepers, complain traders.
Although the cruise season is in full swing, with at least one vessel docking almost daily at Port Sultan Qaboos, the increase in visits is not putting money in retailers’ pockets, they say.
Mohammed Rafiq is a store supervisor at a shop that sells Pashminas and other handwork from India, “We have been here for 35 years, and for the last 10 years I have noticed a constant fall in business, and especially in the last few years I have noticed business reducing year by year.
“We are trying to revive our business, but sometimes we notice that people are not willing to spend, especially considering the year of austerity. We have original Pashminas which come from Kashmir in India and other traditional handwork items from Jaipur in Rajasthan. We are offering original items and we have been this way for 35 years.”
Not really buying
Samit Saha is a seller at one of the stores selling traditional items, as well as jewellery, handicrafts and lamps. He noted, “A lot of people are coming, but they are not really buying as much.
“They spend maybe one or two Euros to 10 Euros. Also, 20 per cent of the people are buying jewellery and spending $200 or $300 dollars, but sales are much lower, when compared to the number of tourists we see here.
“Some just come take photos and look around, and most probably come via Dubai and then here, so there are similar kinds of things being sold there, too, and that is a problem for us. The rest of the year we are getting some business.”
Shami is a seller of traditional clothes, frankincense and jewellery at the Muttrah Souq. He recalled that the shop had begun by selling handwork and showpieces, however, they later changed to traditional items.
Location helps
“We changed our items and also the location of the shop. We were located in the alleys in the middle, but then we moved to the front because we wanted more exposure. Most cruise ship passengers are only here for a short time, and sometimes they don’t go all around the souq, so we changed the location of our store and thought that should help. It has improved our business, but this year has not been very kind, though we are selling better in the high season, which is now, than during the rest of the year.”
The Times of Oman had earlier reported that Port Sultan Qaboos in Muscat is expected to receive more than 150 cruise liners during the 2016-2017 season, which will run until March 2017.
Monika, a passenger from one of the AIDA aura ships which came from Germany said, “This is our second time in Oman. We were here before in 2010. It’s a beautiful place, but this time we are only here for 12 hours. We came at 6am and will leave by 6pm, so there is not enough time to buy a lot of things from the souq, though I bought a small lamp as a souvenir here.”
Said Al Mahrooqi, a freelance tour guide who has been in the industry eight years said, “At this time of the year its high season and we get better business. I perform day tours and take small groups around for the number of days they want. I just was with a family for seven days, and before that there was another family. It’s fun because I meet so many interesting people from all sorts of nationalities.”