It is the biggest season for holidaymakers the world over to take a trip to one of their favourite destinations, but Christmas and New Year are not reason enough for people in Oman to take a holiday. Except for expatriates travelling to be with family and friends, there is not much activity save for a few taking a short break to the Far East, say travel experts.
A spokesperson from National Travel and Tourism (NTT) said outbound travel is slow, as it was last year. “We cannot compare it with the peak summer season when everyone goes on a trip, but there are a few individual enquiries that we are getting for Far Eastern destinations, as well as some Mediterranean cruise trips,” he said.
Considering the slow season, there are not many special offers on the market. Oman Air has only two - one for Christmas or New Year in Beirut, Lebanon, for three nights starting at RO230 - and another for three- and five-nights packages to Malaysia on twin sharing basis starting at RO250. “Although there are not many offers, it is still a busy season as many expatriates travel to their home countries for Christmas, as well as the New Year. Then there are a few taking short breaks to coincide with their children's school holidays,” said Varesh Chopra, senior manager, outbound, Bahwan Travels.
However, it is not as busy as other peak holiday seasons during the year. “Travellers are only taking short haul flights to destinations like Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. The Middle East has suffered because of the continued unrest in some places. The high airfare and hotel rates, particularly at this time of the year, serve as another deterrent.” The NTT spokesperson added that travel to Europe is out of question for many as most of the destinations are fully booked. The weather also plays a spoilsport, leading to flight delays.
Chopra, too, said that European destinations don't make it to the list because of the weather, in addition to the short daylight hours that tourists get to explore the place. “In the summer, daylight stretches to 9pm in some countries, providing ample time for site and city tours.”
An official from Zahara Holidays said that December to March is usually a season for honeymooners. “This is the time when most Omanis are not travelling, but the market is sure to pick up mid-January when Omani schools close for the winter break.”