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Need to sell a ‘hidden gem’

17 Nov 2021 By OUR CORRESPONDENT

Muscat – Despite its offering of old world charm and modern comforts to create memorable experiences amid stunning natural beauty, Oman remains a hidden gem. Professionals in the field of tourism foresee aggressive promotions and marketing to capitalise on the sultanate’s unique selling points in the time to come.

Malik al Hinai
Retired director of Bait al Baranda Museum

Focus on tourism has always been at the forefront for the sultanate. Opening up the country is vital but also ensuring all necessary infrastructure is in place. So, massive road networks have been built into remote villages. We now have to teach nationals how to promote tourism, be it by establishing smaller affordable hotels and cafes as well as giving the correct information.

Our landscape is impressive, from the sea to the mountainous regions and deserts. What is required now is to promote the country in all tourism fairs across the globe. Artisanship should be the focus as a tourist would like to purchase items made by locals. We also need to look into the entertainment sector and what can be offered to visitors that is not available anywhere else. Oman has so much to offer, it’s time we do things properly. Let’s learn from Morocco, Italy and France.

Amira al Lawati
Assistant director general, Institutional Planning & Sustainability, Ministry of Heritage and Tourism

Oman is a country that has been blessed with many assets, among which the most important are its natural beauty and its people. Tourism is a source of opportunities for destinations as it contributes to the welfare of people and the economy. Capitalising on the competitive and comparative advantages that Oman has, and realising the full potential of tourism and its value chain, will enable generation of demand for a spectrum of services and products.
Fifty years is a very long time to forecast, however, Oman Vision 2040 and Oman Tourism Strategy have already set the roadmap for where we want to be and what we want to achieve in the coming years. The idea is to sustainably cluster tourism zones in each governorate, utilising the main theme of a particular location and offering a wide variety of special and innovative services, products, investment opportunities, tourism and recreational projects, opportunities for small and medium enterprises, and interaction with the local communities. This is to be managed by a unique cluster management system under the direct supervision of each governorate.

Oman is our beloved country and is as beautiful as it could be. I would like to see Oman on the bucket list of every responsible traveller and tourist, and definitely among the top ten authentic and sustainable destinations on earth.

Dr Ramin Mohajer
Partner, Aspire Muscat Institute

God Almighty has blessed Oman with all the natural beauty and attractions a land could have. We were blessed under the leadership of the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said, and continue to be blessed under the leadership of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik. Now we need to build the basic infrastructure of tourism, especially outside Muscat. We need to have our scenic areas linked to apps, websites and international social media. This is currently supported by individual Omanis and expats. We need the government to take over this task in cooperation with the private sector.
In addition to intensive marketing, we need support to have an artificial intelligence guide for those going on hikes and driving on scenic routes, or climbing mountains.
We also need 3D apps to give us a feel of the hundreds of tourism spots. In brief, we need to leap from the 80s approach to tourism to the 2050 approach. May our beautiful land see decades and centuries of security, peace and prosperity.

Salim al Hajri
Proprietor, Oman Discovery

The tourism sector in all countries of the world was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic causing great losses. Besides losses in revenue, it caused the loss of many jobs due to lockdowns. To contain the setback, many countries have relied on local tourism. Oman, too, needs to consider creating new attractions, adding infrastructure, and diversifying activities provided by hotels and camps in cooperation with the concerned government institutions.
Activating tourism, holding festivals and sporting events in relevant seasons and times of the year – such as the ‘autumn of Dhofar’ and ‘winter of Bidiyah’ – have proved to be successful over the past years. There should be festivals in areas based on tourist movement.
As for international tourism, we count on the Civil Aviation Authority to launch new direct flights to increase arrivals and enhance tourism. There should be more international exhibitions held in cities around the world for systematic marketing and promotion of Oman. Tourism in the sultanate in the years ahead needs a lot of publicity and capitalisation of its unique selling points around the world.

Manjunath Pai
Ex-project engineer, University of Oman Project Office

The sultanate is blessed with a stunning terrain, hospitable people and heritage. However, these are not known to the world at large and so Oman is known as the ‘Hidden Gem of Arabia’. Having travelled extensively in the sultanate, I look forward to many improvements which will increase the number of international as well as local tourists, besides generating revenue and job opportunities for young Omanis.
Though obtaining an entry visa has become easier over the years, tourist visas/self sponsored visa are available only for nationals of a few select countries. The list needs to be increased. Also, hotel rates need to be reduced and basic facilities need to be provided at locations of tourist interest.

Adventure tourism needs to be promoted as there are many opportunities available for growth in this sector. I look forward to qualified, certified local enthusiasts taking up this opportunity after learning the ropes from professional institutes in other countries. Also, just like conducting desert crossings in a 4WD, we could have desert safaris in camel caravans.
The extensive shoreline also needs to be exploited to attract tourists who seek varied marine sports and such other activities. If Oman is promoted on the world cruise map, we will have many liners touching the various ports and jetties in Oman. At many locations, para sports – paramotoring and paragliding – can be offered.

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