The outlook for Oman’s tourism industry looks bright as hotels and airport data show a significant increase in the number of visitors this year.
Visitors staying at Oman’s four and five-star hotels grew by 23.8 per cent in for the first four months of the year, compared with the same period a year ago, figures from the National Center for Statistics and Information showed.
Occupancy rates at the four and five-star hotels reached 71.6 per cent in April from 66.9 per cent a year earlier.
Hotels’ revenue was up 10.5 per cent in April, with overall revenue reaching 65.9 million Omani rials (Dh628.6m), compared with 59.7m rials a year ago.
Meanwhile, passenger traffic through Muscat International Airport was up 8 per cent to 3.6 million passengers in the first five months of the year, compared with 3.4 million a year earlier. A new terminal, which is expected to open in Muscat this year, will have a capacity to handle 12 million passengers a year.
“We are expecting strong occupancy rates during the upcoming Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha, which we have already been receiving bookings for,” said Greg Alan, Rotana’s area vice president for Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Salalah.
The Salalah Rotana Resort, which opened in March, has had an average occupancy of 68 per cent, he said. Currently Salalah has a number of hotels operated by international chains such as the Hilton, Marriott and Crowne Plaza – but not enough to accommodate the influx of tourists that arrive during the three-month rainy season, known as Khareef.
Oman is known for Unesco-recognised heritage sites, beaches, mountains, old markets and the royal opera house in Muscat. In the south, it has Salalah, which draws tourists from around the GCC from July to September.
The sultanate is also taking steps to build new resorts to accommodate the rising tourist numbers. Oman Tourism Development Company said last week that 12 new tourism projects were under study. These include water parks, Omani castles and forts development and building eco-tourism resorts.
In a show of faith in the Omani market, Air Arabia last month launched four weekly flights to Muscat from Ras Al Khaimah.
“One reason Oman is a popular destination [for tourists from the UAE] is because it has access by road. It has no complication for visa, and on a daily basis there are five to six flights to Oman,” said Kulwant Singh, the managing director of Lama Tours.
Mr Singh added that Oman is a “short holiday destination”. “Anyone who wants to go away for a weekend or has a three-day weekend thinks of Oman,” he said.
“You can get to Oman in 40 minutes from Dubai and [90 minutes] from Abu Dhabi, then you are in a different country, eating different food and experiencing a different culture.”
Oman is also keen to target the meetings and incentives segment. A new convention and exhibition centre is being built and is scheduled to open in 2016. The new centre is coming up close to Muscat airport.
“I believe Oman is doing all right in terms of growth. They are having steady growth,” said Mr Singh.