Muscat: People who list their homes for rent online, without registering with the Ministry of Tourism could face a fine of up to OMR3,000 and risk losing their home, according to the ministry.
“The operation of any bed and breakfast or hospitality hostel that is not registered, including Airbnb, is illegal in Oman,” an official at the Ministry of Tourism told Times of Oman.
More than 300 homes across Oman are currently being advertised on a site alone.
“Article 12 of the Tourism Law stipulates that without authorisation from the ministry, managing any hotel or tourist establishment is not permitted. Therefore, if any of these establishments operate without a licence, the ministry is entitled to take legal action against it, as provided by the Tourism Law and its Executive Regulations,” the official added.
“Specialists at the ministry are already investigating such illegal operations and some cases have been filed in the court,” said the official. “The punishment will be declared by the judge and the accused could be fined up to OMR3,000 or the property could be shut down.”
Just like other hotel websites, travellers are asked to enter their destination and travel dates into the search bar to find places to stay anywhere in the world. There are a few ways to book spaces on Airbnb.
Some hosts want to get to know a guest before they confirm a reservation, while others prefer to reduce the time it takes to manage requests by using Airbnb’s Instant Book feature.
In 2016, the Ministry of Tourism launched a number of tourism services, including hospitality inns. “In order to receive approval to establish the hospitality inn project, the building must already be built on residential land. The approvals are granted in governorates where there are fewer hotels, throughout the Sultanate, besides the governorate of Muscat, with the exception of wilayat Quriyat,” according to ministry.
Among the criteria to be approved by the Ministry, the number of rooms must be not more than nine and not less than three, with other requirements being listed on the ministry’s website.
“The sharing economy has always been around and it’s here to stay. Data from research firm STR will prove that Airbnb has more than double the number of listings worldwide compared to some hotel chains, but it’s not actually replacing hotels. Both hotels and Airbnb cater to different markets. It’s a different stay for a different occasion,” said Daniel Ebo, Area Director of Sales and Marketing, InterContinental Hotels Group Oman.
“Still, many people look for that sense of familiarity and hospitality whenever they travel. A great advantage hotels offer would be the loyalty programme so that they are recognised and their needs are well taken care of. Another reason that travellers choose to stay in hotels is the safety and security, as well as the 24-hour service—breakfast, room service, gym—and other facilities that are vital to both leisure and business travellers. The travel and hospitality industry might be changing, but one thing is for sure, people still want to feel cared for and looked after and that’s what sets hotels apart from Airbnb,” said Ebo.
Praveen George, General Manager at Al Falaj Hotel, said: “That’s a different sector, as it gives you the experience of a homestay without complete services. If you are looking at hotels, we provide a full [range of] services and we don’t even compare ourselves to apartments as they offer a different value. So people looking at Airbnb are looking for a very basic category of rooms to stay in, and that’s not the clientele we are targetting.” “We are looking at the tourism sector. So people who are travelling will not cook—be it tourists or corporate travellers—as they don’t have the time for all this. Families moving from one city to another internally might be interested,” he added.
Another hotel manager in Muscat said that the presence of online bed and breakfast services has not affected his business much.
“People do not wish to stay in places that don’t offer an entire range of services, and where they are not familiar with the owners. The sense of security and safety matters a lot to tourists and travellers even if they are moving within cities. However, my business in Athaiba and Ghala has been affected, but not much,” said Faiyaz Alam, Hotel Manager at Nuzha Hotel Apartments.