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The way forward

12 Dec 2020 By SHADDAD AL MUSALMY

Following the decision to allow visa-free entry to citizens of 103 countries announced last week, tour operators and hoteliers heaved a collective sigh of relief. The hospitality industry, in general, believes the move will boost tourism in the country. 

To make it easier for tourists wishing to visit Oman, the Royal Oman Police announced that nationals of 103 countries travelling to the country for up to ten days will be exempted from entry visas. “This will be according to specified terms and conditions, which include a confirmed hotel booking made in advance, health insurance and a return ticket,” the ROP said a statement.

Faiyaz Khan, general manager of Travel Point, said, “This is brilliant news for us as tour operators to boost tourism in Oman. The sultanate has untapped natural beauty and we are ready to welcome tourists to give a big push to the growth of tourism and the economy.”

He said tour operators have created standard operating procedures at tourism sites and offices for staff members and tour guides. “Everything is in place to insure the safety of our guests,” he added.

The news was welcomed by travellers, too. Sarjatha Shahinlal Meloly, a Dubai-based resident from India, said, “This is great news. Living in the UAE, I have always wanted to visit Muscat as we share a fence of peace. I appreciate this new move by the sultanate, that too for ten long days. I will surely plan a trip to Oman very soon.”

Hoteliers welcomed the requirement of a hotel reservation as a condition for the visa-free entry. “We have been waiting for this. We want to see the hotel industry back at normal level of business,” said Samir Messaoudi, general manager of Sheraton Oman Hotel.

On the duration of stay being allowed for the visa-free entry, Messaoudi said, “This is good news because most of our guests come for business for a short time. A ten-day period is more than enough. We are hopeful for the coming period as far as tourism is concerned.”

Shadi Abou Assi, CEO of Dubai-based advertising and marketing agency Into All Marketing Solutions, described the visa-free entry for citizens of 103 countries is a ‘historic move’. 

“This will help expand the sultanate’s tourism sector, which has plenty of natural and historic marvels on offer for tourists. While there are some prerequisites to enter the country without visa, such as hotel reservation and health insurance, the ten-day visa-free entry is a blessing for all globetrotters,” Assi said. 

“As a travelling enthusiast myself, I appreciate Oman’s decision and hope all other GCC countries follow this progressive approach with regards to tourism development.” 

Assi noted that development of tourism is one of the key factors for the success of any country. “Oman has paved the way to a promising future with this move. Now it’s time for this nation to explore new adventures in recreational and health tourism.” 

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