The tourism sector regulations and reforms by the Ministry of Tourism (MoT) and the preparedness strategies to tackle Covid-2019 [official name given by WHO for the Novel Coronavirus] by the Ministry of Health (MoH), have helped Oman maintain its strong and resilient inbound tourism despite a few travel cancellations from tourists of some Asian countries.
According to international media reports, the impact of the current health crisis on Chinese foreign tourism is likely to be worse than it was during the SARS epidemic in 2002-03 or the swine flu crisis in 2009, simply because many Chinese citizens travel abroad for pleasure now than before.
To curb the spread of Covid-2019, Chinese authorities have suspended holiday packages and advised nationals to avoid foreign travel. Curbs and cancellations affecting commercial flights to and from China are also weighing on traveller numbers.
Given the present trend of improving tourism sector in Oman, there were still many tourists coming to Oman this winter. “Coronavirus has not had much effect on Oman. It is business as usual and recently we received a group comprising 30 people from Europe. Oman remains safe in terms of inbound travel,” an official at Marmul Travels & Tours said.
Even though China is one of the biggest markets for Oman’s inbound tourism, the pinch has not been felt as many tourists from other countries are flowing in. “I am in Oman for the first time and have been quite impressed with the safety norms adopted by the country. Though there were rumours of virus spread in Dubai and I was sort of nervous but I didn’t face any such problem in Oman.
“My brother is a doctor. I saw that every hospital and health centre had taken several health precautions and followed strict regulations. And every team was prepared for any crisis. Oman has been my most peaceful destination,” said Simon Pierre, a French tourist.
Mezoon International Travel and Tours too has not reported any cancellations. “Because our clients had booked much in advance, there have been no cancellations. Mainly we get tourists from Europe and those who had booked are happy to come because there has not been any case of Covid-2019 in Oman,” an official at the company said.
However, Pink Stone Travel and Tourism, which has many clients from China including Hong Kong and Macau, is somehow affected.
“There have been cancellations and this has affected our business. This week too, we got some four cancellations which is a big number in such a short period. Also, outbound travel is affected,” Vidya Rani, director of business development, Pink Stone Travel and Tourism said.
“In the recent past, there have been eight to ten cancellations.”
Ticketing business has been affected too, according to air travel tickets agencies. “Because of the virus spread, ticketing business to China, which has been so good in recent years, is affected after China Airlines and Oman Air suspended their flights,” an official at Fayeda Travel and Tourism said.
The global impact on world tourism of the H1N1 swine flu epidemic that broke out in 2009 is estimated at $55bn, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). The impact of the SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003 is estimated at between US$30bn and US$50bn.
Chinese tourism-linked companies contributed 25 per cent less to GDP than usual because of the health crisis, and the sector lost 2.8mn jobs, according to the WTTC.