Muscat: Cheap package holidays, bucket and spade culture and jetting off for weeks of sun and sand is on the decline.
The suggestion comes from Talib Al Makhmari, Director General of Marketing and Media at Ithraa, Oman’s inward investment and export promotion agency, and organiser of the annual ‘Inside Stories’ initiative.
Today, there is a new type of tourism, one that could be described as deep travel, it is about getting under the skin of a place. Tourists seeking out authenticity, real experiences rather than fake culture packages made for the masses. “It is about the appreciation of local distinctiveness, the idiosyncrasies and the detail, the things that make a place unique and special,” remarked Al Makhmari.
“Tourism is going hyperlocal,” is the topic for the first session of Ithraa 2017 Inside Stories season to be held on Wednesday, April at the Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA).
Supported by BP Oman, Inside Stories is a series of seven informal evening talks scheduled for 2017 that brings together Oman’s business community and public sector. Discussions focus on the opportunities and trends that are redefining what it means to be in, and start, a business today.
“Increasingly, today’s tourists are looking for more than just the tick-box attractions, passport stamps and Instagram photos. They’re after genuine experiences that are memorable,” said al-Makhmari.
The demand for hyperlocal tourism activities is on the rise.
Whether it is climbing mountains, crossing deserts, sailing, relaxing on a beach or shopping, tourists want an authentic experience. In fact,there is a large number of travelers who are looking for offbeat locations to get the local, unique real-life experience, a market worth around USD 140 billion globally.
Research shows that when tourists are asked to describe their ideal holiday, they use words like “authentic,” “discovery,” as well as “relaxing”.
“More and more often, they’re looking to experience distinctive, local culture, too,” pointed out Sajda al-Ghaithy, Ithraa Director of Media.
Al-Ghaithy went on to say: “And it’s not just about attracting foreign tourists to Oman, our next happy customer could be closer to home. With a growing array of options available to local residents, from scuba diving, mountain biking, camping, sailing to exploring Oman’s forts and historic buildings the staycation trend is definitely getting stronger year-on-year. The growth in experiential travel is clearly being driven by a number of factors – not least, a consumer shifts away from a desire for material possessions and towards an interest in actual experiences”.
The 26th April Inside Stories session will be moderated by Sayyid Dr. Adham al-Said of Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) and panelists include: Mazen Khoury, Investment Director, Tourism and Culture, Oman Investment Fund; Eric Walters, Director, Hud Hud Travels; and Gillian Taylor, Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Oman’s small businesses, particularly those working in the creative industries space, can certainly play a role in helping tourists realize their expectations, as well as supporting the local hotels they stay in and the airlines they travel on. “These are just some of the hyperlocal tourism issues we’ll be discussing on 26th April,” concluded al-Makhmari.