Muscat: Inexpensive flights to German cities and faster visa processing times has ensured Germany remains the most popular holiday destination for Omanis travelling to Europe.
In addition, cities such as Frankfurt and Munich are also quite close to other European countries, such as France, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium, providing for easy access to these nations.
Germany continues to be the most popular destination for Omanis, followed by the Netherlands, France, Spain and Italy, a new report has said.
According to Schengen Visa Info, a website that follows and reports on policy changes on Schengen Zone countries in the European Union, the German embassy in Oman saw requests for 9,420 visa applications in 2017. This represented a slight decrease from 10,231 applications in 2016.
Of these applications, 8,988 visas were successfully issued, with 95.9 per cent being multiple-entry visas, allowing for repeat visits to the Schengen Zone. Also, 315 visas applications were rejected.
The Dutch embassy in the Sultanate of Oman, on the other hand, received 8,477 visa applications, of which 8,111 were successfully processed.
Nearly all of these visas (99.9 per cent) were multiple entry, while 296 applications were turned down.
The Embassy of France also received a similar number of visa applicants, at 8,374, though only 65 per cent of these visas were for multiple-entries. The embassy granted Schengen visas to 7,667 applicants and refused 608 requests. Spanish authorities successfully processed 7,078 visas of the 7,318 visas they received. Surprisingly, only 19.9 per cent of these were multiple-entry visas.
The Italian embassy issued the lowest number of visas, with just 1,997 requests filed, of which 1,964 were granted. As 99.9 per cent of the applicants were provided multiple visas.
In total, all the embassies of the Schengen Zone nations in Oman received applications for 35,586 visas.
Of these, 33,808 were successfully processed, and 25,079, or 74.18 per cent of all applicants were issued multiple-entry visas. Also, 202 of them were Limited Territory Visas, while 1,322 applications were turned down, which in turn translated to just 3.71 per cent of applicants being denied visas.
Regarding European travel, Renny Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, Barakah Travel Management Company in Muscat said, “Year on Year, holiday travellers from Oman have increased and are growing steadily. Germany has always been one of the favourite holiday destination for Omani residents and nationals. Business Trade relationships between the two countries, and medical treatment offered in Germany, is also the key factor that we have noticed as the reason for this growth of travellers. Travellers use Frankfurt and Munich as the hub airport, from where they proceed to other European destinations. Currently, Oman Air, the national carrier, operates daily to Munich and Frankfurt.”
Shamveel Baig, operations manager at Travel Point, said this ease of access prompted many Omanis to travel to Germany and later visit other parts of Europe after landing there.
“There is ease of access in applying through the German embassy because your processing time is easier and faster, because you can get your visa in four days, whereas other embassies take about 15 days for this,” he said. “The other thing is that the requirement to enter Germany is easier than it is for other countries. Omanis prefer to land in Munich because the connectivity of getting into Austria is easy. They fly into Munich, spend a couple of days there, and they also go to Garmisch, where His Majesty’s palace is present and they all want to see it. That is where his home is in Germany.
“People then drive there or take a train into Austria and then fly back from Munich, because the fares are comparatively cheaper,” added Baig.
“Oman Air has fantastic rates for direct flights into Munich, so they land in Germany and then go to the other Schengen states. There are people who travel to Frankfurt, as well, because there are combination fares available for them.”
Omanis who had previously visited and stayed in Europe shared their experiences of why they had chosen Germany as their point of arrival.
Ahmed Al Marmari, who previously lived in Germany, said, “For me, my favourite place in Germany would have to be Frankfurt. Most of Europe shuts down at night, but that is not true with Frankfurt. There is always something for everyone to do, whatever time of day it may be. Frankfurt is a big city, but everyone has the time to talk to you. Everyone there is so welcoming, so much so that when you move there, people volunteer to help move things to your apartment, and invite you into theirs. The only sad part after that is that you then have to go home.”
One of the key attractions for Omanis who visited Germany was to visit the palace owned by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, on the outskirts of Munich.
“I had to take my parents there when they came to visit me,” recalled Al Marmari. “The area is so popular for Omanis that even if you don’t speak German, all you need to tell the taxi driver is that you want to go to the Sultan’s house and they will know exactly what you mean. Frankfurt airport, in fact, sees at least one person wearing a dishdasha arrive every day. I had to go there to receive a lot of Arab students who were coming to Germany to study.”
For Sultan Al Junaibi, it was a town on Germany’s western border that had a special affection.
“The town of Aachen is very well situated, because it is on the border with France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands,” he said.
“Therefore, you can go to Amsterdam, see the city and then come back to Aachen, and go to Brussels the next day. The day after that, you can travel to Luxembourg, and, of course, you can easily travel to other German cities, such as Essen, Dusseldorf, Dortmund and Cologne, so it is really convenient for someone who wants to see parts of Western Europe.”
The Schengen Agreement, which was ratified in 1995, is a treaty that led to the abolishment of travel permits for those who wished to travel to the 26 member nations. Instead of issuing visas for individual nations, embassies and consulates have since issued a common visa for all of these countries, allowing for easier travel, trade and movement between them.
The Schengen Zone includes Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.