Oman benefiting from instability in Middle East

Oman is benefiting from instability in the Middle East.

Figures indicate that regional instability has helped the nation expand income from its tourism industry by more than 15 per cent in the first four months of 2013.

Data released by STR Global, said, ‘Due to various reasons, tourists do not prefer Egypt and Syria. When compared to these places, Oman is safe and calm. It can be termed a relaxed destination. When compared to other tourist spots in the region, the locations in Oman are still virgin.’

Omanese tourism authorities said that the nation had a lot to offer tourists, which is a big reason for developing this revenue stream in the nation. Muscat is believed to have reported the strongest growth in the region.

Elizabeth Winkle, managing director of STR Global, a firm that offers statistics on the tourism industry, said, ‘The factors for performance include strong occupancy growth of 14.0 per cent to 77.3 per cent, while an already solid ADR increased 1.1 per cent to USD248. Oman has benefited from tremendous interest from the corporate sector with significant infrastructure investment and projects, such as Duqm Port. The corporate demand is coupled with strong leisure business, which is up 25.0 per cent.’

Data compiled by STR Global also showed that the Middle East and Africa region reported positive performance during April 2013.

Analysts also said that Oman has gained from the instability in Syria, Lebanon and other nations which have seen unsurprisingly negative effects from the Arab Spring.

Winkle said, ‘Beirut has struggled during the first four months of the year with RevPAR declines of (-31.0 per cent). Lebanon’s tourism industry continues to suffer because of the political instability in Syria and has recently appealed to its Gulf Cooperation Council neighbours to lift the travel advisory to Gulf nationals.’


IHG to open second Crowne Plaza hotel in Muscat

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), the world’s largest hotel group in terms of rooms, is set to open a new 296-room hotel under the Crowne Plaza brand in Muscat, the capital of Oman, after reaching an agreement with Oman Tourism Development Company SAOC (Omran).

Crowne Plaza already has a presence in Muscat, and three such branded hotels in the country as a whole. The latest addition, Crowne Plaza Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre, will be a completely new building boasting extensive meeting and event facilities, including a ballroom. It will also host five restaurants – including one set on the rooftop, male and female Jacuzzi pools, a large fitness area, two swimming pools, and a children’s area.

The hotel will form part of a larger development precinct that is due to be completed in 2016. Situated 10 minutes from Muscat International Airport overlooking a Wadi and parklands, this development will include extensive exhibition space, a business park, and  a shopping centre.

His Excellency Nasser bin Khamis Al Jashmi, Chairman of Omran, said at the signing ceremony, ‘Today marks a pivotal milestone in the development of the much anticipated OCEC as we sign with the first hotel operator to handle one of a series of planned hotels to complement this mega project. By formalizing this agreement with our preferred and trusted partner IHG to operate the 5-star facility, we are taking another step forward to establish the Sultanate as a favoured destination for the regional and global meetings and exhibitions industry. Based on our existing relations with IHG, we are confident that they will continue to realise our mission of delivering memorable hospitality assets that have a positive direct and indirect social and economic impact on local communities.’

Oman to market its mountains to geologists

The Sultanate of Oman is planning to market its mountains as a tourist attraction.

With the nation having discovered that its mountain-tourism programme was a huge success with local tourists, it is now planning to market them as geo-tourism. The mountains will be promoted as a destination for hiking, camping, bird watching, sightseeing, and for simply enjoying their natural beauty. The area will also be promoted as a geologist’s haven. Already Omani mountain ranges, including the Jabal al Shams and Jabal al Akhdhar, are popular summer holiday destinations for tourists, but in addition, the mountain ranges are also an attraction for their geological importance.

Many students already visit the mountains to study them, and the Samayil Ophiolite, the Arabian basement, Jabal al Akhdhar and the Sand desert are other attractions that are valued by the nation’s geologists. Many consider the Samayil Oman Ophiolite to be the largest, best preserved, best exposed and best-studied ophiolite in the world, and it is widely recognised as a ‘world-class’ example of its type. Students also consider Oman to be the best place to study the oceanic lithosphere. Since the nation is located at the margin of the Arabian Plate, it is considered to be a good location to study the complicated plate tectonic history of the Middle East.

The government is now planning to capitalise on this status and develop more such sites to attract tourists. It also wants to mix tourism with sustainable activities to ensure that the nation receives the credit it deserves in geo tourism. Authorities believe that geo-tourism could offer a whole new range of economic development potential if included within sustainable tourism schemes. As a result, two tourism streams are being encouraged in the nation, scientific geo-tourism and cultural/scenic geo-tourism.

To cater for the potential increase in the number of tourists, the nation is completing the construction of the Jabal Akhdar Hotel by December 2013. The five-star resort includes an all day restaurant, a lobby lounge, fitness centre, spa, swimming pool, business centre, and meeting facilities.

Oman reports increased tourist numbers

Oman has reported an increase in the number of tourists, especially from Switzerland.

Official figures in Oman said that the number of Swiss travellers had increased in 2012. Tourist inflows from Switzerland have increased by 118 percent compared to June 2011, which is a record figure.

Maitha Al Mahrouqi, undersecretary at the Ministry of Tourism in Oman, said that the Swiss market was very important to Oman, and added that the importance of tourists from Switzerland had increased this year. She said that Swiss tourists were fond of the beaches, beach resorts spas and hotels in Oman, making Oman their favourite leisure-tourism destination. In addition, Oman also offers plenty of opportunities for trekking, mountaineering, desert camps and safaris and swimming. The nation is also blessed with a wealth of coral reefs, and the tourism department is promoting swimming in coral reefs as a major attraction for foreign tourists.

The tourism official also said that 84 percent of traffic used Oman Air for their travel, and that stopover services being offered by the air carrier were a big hit with tourists to the nation. The carrier has a working partnership with TUI Switzerland, a tourist firm. She also revealed that German-speaking tourists were the second largest market with regard to tourism, after Arabic-speaking tourists.

The official also said that currently, total visitor arrivals to Oman are estimated at around 1.75 million. Tourism is believed to generate around 3 percent of the country’s GDP.

Maitha also said that plans for developing tourism in the nation were progressing. The expected opening of Oman’s Convention and Exhibition Centre in 2015-16 would take the nation into the global business and convention markets. The opening of the centre would also enhance Oman’s maritime tourism activities. This year, the nation is also planning to open new resorts, spas and hotels.

Maitha added, ‘Oman is an emerging market and the Ministry has established a comprehensive network of representative offices in markets that we think best fit our visitors aspiration. Specifically, we are not marketing to the group travel/holiday package segments; instead, we are focusing on brand development, trade education and tactical campaigns to attract responsible high yield visitors.’

Oman to make efforts to increase tourist inflow

The state of Oman has said that it will make efforts to attract more tourists to the nation.

The state, which has been slow to attract tourists in the past, has now announced a plan to attract 12 million travellers, and has made a serious start to the effort. Though located in the dry Gulf region, the state has pristine beaches, man-made farms and rugged mountains that have ample potential to fire the imagination of travel fans. In addition, the nation boasts a rich heritage and is famous for its hospitality; factors that can only enhance its tourism aspirations. Oman is generally considered to have plenty of potential for leisure tourism and provides plenty of options for travellers seeking a change from the norm.

The efforts of the tourism department are already paying dividends, with local and international travellers flocking to the nation during the Eid holidays. Hotel owners are already upbeat about the prospects for the nation’s tourism, and are hopeful that visitors will be impressed by what Oman has to offer and be keen to return.

David Todd, general manager of the InterContinental Hotel, a 35-acre oasis in the heart of Muscat, said, ‘Oman has a great vision for the future of the tourism. The 2020 vision aims to attract 12 million visitors to the country based on using the new and extended airports and the huge development in the basic infrastructure across the country and development of the basic amenities and locations. This will certainly see fruition as is currently experienced. I think the facilities and amenities found in Muscat are attracting a steady stream of international visitors both for business and leisure. The direction where the country is heading for with regard to tourism is exemplary.’

Todd also said that foreign tourists are considering Oman as a twin-holiday destination, a place to visit twice in a year. Indian and Chinese visitors currently make up the bulk of the incoming tourist traffic.