Muscat: Fewer tourists are coming to Oman and the dip is being felt across various sectors, according to recently released statistics.
The number of cruise ship passengers coming ashore in June this year saw a 73 per cent drop compared to the previous month.
Hotel income has slumped by 36 per cent and there was an overall 19 per cent drop in visitors to the Sultanate.
The latest statistics are revealed in the Tourism Index Report – June 2016, published by the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI).
Ahmed Al Hooti, board member at the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) said that a decrease is natural in an economic downturn but added that the new waterfront development project could provide a much needed shot in the arm.
“There is no doubt that the instability in the Middle East can have an effect on (European) tourists because even if they come here, they would have it in their mind that we are part of that group,” said Al Hooti.
“Economic difficulties are also a factor. There hasn’t been a day where someone doesn’t have financial difficulties,” he added.
He said that instability in countries around the Sultanate, political problems faced in countries where the tourists come from and the global economic problem are the three main factors which affected the flow of tourists in Oman.
When asked about the waterfront project which is currently in development and how it can help the Sultanate’s tourism and economy, he said, “No doubt that it will reflect positively because there isn’t ‘product’ like it available in Oman.”
However, some tourism projects are slow running and being delayed which affects the Sultanate’s overall tourism numbers, he added. Offering a solution, he said that countries like Oman must focus on a certain type of tourist and attract them to the country.
More effort required
“Today GCC tourists are the closest to us. If we are able to persuade them with marketing campaigns and advertisements as well as provide them with the services that they need, then that would be a great thing for us,” said Al Hooti, adding that focusing on international tourists requires more effort than is currently available.
During the first half of 2016, 658,793 guests checked in to 3-5 star hotels and the total revenue was OMR88,635,000, but rooms are being sold at rates as low as 2011 prices, according to analysts.
In June, hotel revenues reached OMR6,281,000 - 36.2 per cent down on the OMR9,845,000 earned during June last year.
56,933 guests stayed in hotels in June 2016 compared to 62,643 last year – a hotel occupancy rate of 29.8 per cent compared to 39.8 per cent last year. In June 2016 alone, 123,000 visited the Sultanate, which is a 19 per cent decrease compared to the same month last year where around 155 thousand were recorded.
Gulf nationals make up the bulk of the visitors, with 38,692 arriving, forming 31 per cent of the total visitors for June this year.
Last month only 2,000 tourists visited the Sultanate via cruise ships - a 73 per cent drop compared to May where the number of visitors by cruise was 6,700.
Tourists from Oceania made up 92 per cent of the total visitors with Australians forming 78 per cent of the group.
More than 1.2 million tourists and travellers visited the Sultanate since the beginning of the 2016 year according to the report.
According to the data, 1,270,000 passengers visited the Sultanate via air and sea versus 2,671,000 visitors departing during the first half of the year.
Visitors from neighbouring Gulf Cooperation Council states topped the top five nationalities visiting the country by air with 416,339 people recorded followed by Indians with 135,349.
British nationals came third with 91,919 people recorded arriving by air while Germans and Omanis recorded 81,584 and 60,825 respectively.
The top four cruise ship visitors comprised of European countries where Germany topped the list with 42,084 recorded followed by the United Kingdom with 23,081 while Italy recorded 18,647 visitors. Spain came fourth with 5,472 visitors followed by the United States of America with 4,627 visitors in all.