The Sultanate of Oman is a country rich in Heritage and culture with a vast array of tourism attractions and natural beauty; making for a true Arabian experience. Yet, when holiday makers hear or think about Oman, the thoughts are often associated with a wealthy Oil rich country and not that of a holiday destination. This is where the need for a radical boost in Omani tourism stems from.
The Ministry of National Economy conducted a survey for both inbound and outbound tourism in 2001 and 2002. The results showed that in 2002, Oman received just over 1.1 million arrivals, of which only 35% were holiday markers. In the governments economic summary in 2003 ‘vision for Oman’s Economy; Oman 2020’ it was noted that Oil currently provided 40% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), however by 2020 it is expected that it will fall to 20%, as Oman is not as rich in Oil as its neighboring gulf countries. The government is therefore seeking alternative sectors for economic growth and Tourism has been selected as one of the sectors.
At 1.7% of GDP the tourism industry has a lot of development to do, if it is to compensate for a lack of Oil in the Economy. Prior to the 1970’s Oman was a closed and isolated economy, therefore new policies are encouraged to educate the world on its tourism gems. As a way forward, the government established the Tourism Ministry in 2004, to help address these issues.
Oman boasts a diverse range of well known tourist attractions such as archaeology, modern history, culture, traditional souks (Arabian markets) and architecture. The architecture in Oman ranges from forts to castles built by the Portuguese who colonised Oman for over a century until 1650. It seems evident that tourists are not aware of the other gems Oman has to offer, such as scuba diving and ecotourism.
I sought to speak to tourists at one of the grandest and first six-star hotels in Oman the Shangri-La Resort & spa. An English family stated the reason for their trip was they felt Dubai (their former holiday destination) had become too commercialised and crowded; Oman offered them a more relaxing holiday experience, with its vast beaches and hospitable natives. This is a unique selling point for Oman as the Tourism Ministry is focusing on quality rather than quantity of tourists, therefore attracting those that wish to relax in beautiful surroundings whilst respecting local customs. Oman also has an advantage over other gulf countries, with its comparatively temperate climate. best attraction Sentosa singapore
On the other hand, a family with differing interests were from Germany, as it happens they arrived in Oman on the spur of the moment and were not in fact aware of all the country had to offer. I then proceeded to tell them about one of Oman’s little Gems, watching the Turtles nesting in the Wilayat of Sur; they were intrigued and keen to make a trip there. As these tourists would pay for sightseeing and ecotourism trips in addition to staying at hotels, they are therefore the market segment Oman should focus on; those that wish to experience the vast richness of the natural surroundings of Oman.
According to the inbound Tourism survey , 2002, some general figures on the average expenditure of tourists in Oman are as follows: The average tourist in Oman spends 83 Omani Riyals (OMR) equivalent to $215 USD. Europeans spend 147 OMR, Asians 81 OMR, Gulf cooperative countries 59 OMR, other Arab nations 78 OMR and the remaining tourists spend 152 OMR (equivalent to $380, $209, $152, and $201 USD respectively). It is hoped, that by diversifying the tourism attractions, Oman will encourage more tourists with a higher disposable income; yielding a higher average expenditure.
With the expansion of new hotels and developments in Oman like the Wave, the country will be able to accommodate for an increase in tourists and thus the demand for accommodation, spa’s, golf courses and restaurants. The Wave is one of the largest developments in Muscat costing $900 million USD and is scheduled to open in 2008. It will be an extremely luxurious residential and tourist area, comprising of a golf course with 505 luxury villas located around it and around the beach, luxury condominiums, apartments and luxury hotels. It will also include a marina with a Yacht Club and moorings for 250 boats, a marina village with retail outlets, restaurants and an international market.
Although the wave is the biggest development in Oman, there are several other similar ones and no doubt many more to be developed in the future; thus accommodating for both expatriates and tourists.
Accommodating tourists in not an issue, however, keeping them entertained and gaining new holiday makers that would not have considered Oman, remains an issue. It seems the majority of tourists in Oman come to enjoy the relaxation aspect of the country, but if there was more of a focus on additional activities or even adventure activities, there could be a greater influx of tourism in the country