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Oman must be ‘faster’ to grasp tourism opportunities

Oman needs to be “faster” to react to regional tourism opportunities and market itself more effectively to attract more visitors to the country, according to the sultanate’s industry leaders. 

Tourism grew by 12 percent in the first quarter of the year, figures released by the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism show. Total revenues of 3-to-5 star establishments in the period amounted to OMR71 million ($184 million). 

The World Travel & Tourism Council estimated that the sector’s contribution to GDP will be OMR3.3 billion by the end of this year, accounting for 7.6 percent of the country’s economy. 

MICE – meeting, incentives, conferences and exhibitions – plays a vital role as the tourists visiting for business events tend to spend nearly three times as much as a regular tourist. 

“For every tourist that spends $1 in Oman, a MICE tourist will spend $2.70,” said Said Al Shanfari, CEO of Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The Middle East is one of the fastest-growing tourism markets. One of the factors contributing to this is the large-scale events that Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar have hosted in the past five years.

While Oman can benefit from the global visitors to the GCC, it tends to “take things slow”, according to Shanfari. 

“We need to go at a faster pace to harvest some of these opportunities happening around us,” he said. 

Oman offers attractions such as the Muscat Royal Opera House but sports tourism could bring it new opportunitiesAlamy via Reuters
Oman offers attractions such as the Muscat Royal Opera House

Sports tourism is a $600 billion industry in the Middle East, with Oman’s neighbouring countries hosting the World Cup, Formula 1 and other spectator sports that drive both visitor volumes and revenues. 

Oman’s infrastructure limits its ability to host events of that scale, said Joseph Rafferty, event and business development director at Oman Sail, which is why it is focusing on desert, mountain and sea sports to create its own niche. 

“We have to cut our cloth accordingly in the short term,” Rafferty said. “That’s where endurance sports and events that are utilising our natural resources are going to be important in our strategy.”

Watch the video for more on Oman’s approach to making its tourism offering unique.

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