Oman’s Ministry of Tourism has forecast 10% growth in the sector this year and aims to attract 12 million visitors a year by 2020. Last year, the tourism industry’s contribution to GDP was 2.6% and is on pace to exceed the country’s projection that the industry would contribute 3% of GDP in 2020, said Haitham Mohammed Ghasani, director of tourism promotion, Oman Ministry of Tourism.
Several new initiatives are underway to boost the country’s tourism sector, as reported in Ameinfo, which faced challenges in 2011 due to the unrest in the region. However, he was quick to point out that room rates remain high, largely due to a shortage of supply. According to a recent study by Hotels.com, average room rates in Oman rose by 19% to US$288 per night in 2011, making it the most expensive country in the world for hotel accommodation.
“The high room rates are an advantage and disadvantage,” Ghasani said. “On one hand it shows that there is very high demand for this destination, but on the other side you have people who might complain that the room rates are very expensive. In the future prices will go down once new projects are completed. We hope.”
In addition to focusing on its core markets in the Gulf and Europe, the ministry is putting greater emphasis on attracting tourists from Asia, he noted. “We opened a representative office in India two years ago, and we’ll open new offices in China and Japan soon,” he said.
The ministry has also coordinated with Oman Air and hotels across the country to launch the ‘1 Free Night in Oman’ campaign to encourage stopovers on the carrier’s international network. The campaign is the first of its kind for Oman and runs until 22 December.
Oman also recently reduced the price of tourists visas by up to 75% in a bid to attract more visitors. As per the revisions, new entry tourist visas, valid for ten days, will cost US$13 while cruise visas for up to 24-hours will be free or charged at OMR5 for multiple visits.
Another key pillar of the government’s tourism strategy is the construction of the Muscat Convention and Exhibition Centre. Scheduled to be fully completed by 2015, the centre will feature a 3,200 seat auditorium and 22,000 square metres of exhibition space. The centre and its surrounding precinct will also include a five-star hotel, two four-star hotels, and a three-star hotel.
Also in the works is a US$1 billion tourism resort in the southern port city of Salalah. The first phase of the project is expected to be ready this year and will consist of three upscale five-star and four-star hotels and light residential and commercial components.