Tourism is the Sultanate of Oman’s major “driving force” in the non-oil sector. It occupies a solid place in Vision 2040 as well as the 10th Five-Year Plan. Oman’s tourism sector is on the path to recovery after the setbacks faced due to the pandemic. The plans are in line with the programmes designed by the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism (MoHT) for 2022 and ahead. The biggest challenge in front of the Sultanate of Oman’s tourism sector post-Covid-19 is to re-establish itself as the best value-for-money tourism destination and to bring in more FDI through tourism.
The key performance indicators (KPIs) of the Sultanate of Oman’s Tourism Development are based on the country’s ambitious tourism development plans. The five KPIs are:
1) Attracting more tourists from various continents.
2) Delivering the best tourism services.
3) Inviting more private investors to the tourism sector.
4) Strategising advanced plans to get Oman’s tourism sector get noticed.
5) Creating more job opportunities for the local workforce.
The Sultanate of Oman has been attracting visitors from across the planet with its stunning landscape and diverse natural resources.
According to the tourism indicators for May 2022 released by National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), the Sultanate of Oman received 794,000 travellers, mainly from the fellow GCC nations, India, Yemen, Germany and United Kingdom, while 1.5 million travellers had used the country’s airports as origin point by Q2, 2022, as the world countries started lifting Covid-19 restrictions and as tourism slowly started rebounding.
The Ministry of Heritage and Tourism (MoHT) has chalked out several plans to make the Sultanate of Oman the most sought-after destination for international tourists, and some of the projects are to develop tourism destinations, facilities and amenities in the governorates of, besides Muscat, Dhofar, South Al Sharqiyah, Musandam and Al Dakhiliyah followed by many other governorates.
These projects, formulated as part of Vision 2040 and the Tenth Five-Year Plan, envisage finding alternative sources of national income and reducing dependence on oil and oil products, aiming to attract RO 3 billion for various projects till the year 2023.
In the first phase of the plans, the ministry is developing tourist sites in the governorates of Muscat, Al Dakhiliyah, South Al Sharqiyah, Dhofar and Musandam, followed by the rest of the governorates.
According to statements issued by Omran (the Oman Tourism Development Company), it has signed a cooperation agreement with the office of the Governor of South Al Sharqiyah Q2 this year to develop the governorate into a major tourism hub divided into several phases. To achieve this, Omran will provide technical support and supervision for the implementation of projects across various parts of the governorate.
A vast park in the Suwayh area on an area of more than 65,000 sqm and another park in Al Ashkharah over a land size of 14,000 sqm will be developed as part of the first phase. This is in addition to the ambitious plans of developing several tourist destinations in Dhofar, thanks to the mutual agreement between the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism and Omran.
INTEGRATED TOURISM COMPLEXES
The Sultanate of Oman has nearly 21 integrated tourism complex projects, of which 11 are on government lands owned by the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, and five development agreements already signed for these complexes and eight usufruct contracts.
Out of the ten projects on private lands, two are in the process of implementation, and development agreements have been signed for four of them.
One of the major players in attracting and retaining tourists year after year is the hospitality sector, and these hotels are upgrading their services and offers with a mission to improve their positioning in the post-Covid era. The hospitality sector, along with the tourism sector, faced major setbacks in 2020 and 2021. However, hotels are reporting a massive turnout and surging revenues during what is termed as ‘revenge travel’ by IATA, which brought in nearly RO 13 million in revenues, a commendable figure compared to the RO 4 million reported during the same period last year. Hotel occupancy rates stood at an average of 42.8 per cent in comparison with 24 per cent in 2021, and over 140,000 guests stayed in hotels during Q2 this year compared to 68,000 in the same period last year, an increase of 105 per cent.
One of the major chunks of Oman tourism is cruise tourism which brings in thousands of visitors from across the world to the Sultanate of Oman during its nearly 3 months winter tourist season. This season witnesses nearly 300 visits of vessels sailing along the Sultanate carrying tens of thousands of tourists from different countries of the world.
The MoHT plays a major role in the development of this type of international tourism in coordination with the government and private sectors and international companies owning and operating these cruise ships.
The liners that dock at the Port Sultan Qaboos and the PSQ in 2019 alone had hosted 166 vessel visits, while the Port of Salalah welcomed nearly 71 visits, and Khasab Port 73 visits, according to statistics from the MoHT. These cruise liners also visit Muscat, Dhofar and Musandam, and sometimes more than once.
Reports suggest that the Sultanate of Oman has already attracted RO 1.7 billion in tourism investments out of a planned RO 3 billion between 2021 and 2023, and all these plans of the MoHT to make the country a truly unique tourism location looks up to taking advantage of the characteristics of a premier tourist destination and attracting newer segments of the society and becoming a key player in the GDP of a country that aims at diversifying its national economy.