Lufthansa City Centre International’s Managing Director, Klaus Henschel highlights the importance of tapping Oman’s potential as a peaceful destination and calls for opening more budget hotels to develop the Sultanate’s tourism sector.
Promoting Oman as a peaceful oasis in the Middle East along with more efforts to attract all categories of tourists including budget travellers will fetch Oman’s tourism industry rich dividends, said Klaus Henschel, managing director, Lufthansa City Center International GmbH (LCCI), one of the biggest travel agency chains in the world.
Speaking to OER, Henschel who was in Muscat recently in connection with the opening of a new LCCI office in Madinat Al Sultan Qaboos along with Khimji’s House of Travel, their franchisee partner in the Sultanate added that Oman needed more investment in building tourism infrastructure.
Highlighting Oman’s stability he said, “Amidst the geo-political tensions in the ME, especially in Syria Egypt, Turkey etc. GCC is stable and Oman remains stable and peaceful. This is Oman’s advantage and the country should to play this card to attract tourists.”
On the tourism infrastructure, he said, “Oman has good luxury and business hotels but the country also needs more hotels in the three and four star category. Those are the kind of hotels that are affordable to youngsters who travel a lot. To attract them Oman needs to build more budget hotels. You have to know what people want. Youngsters need accommodation that they like and can afford. As airline rates are reasonable now, and with many parts of Europe just around 6 hours from Oman, the country can attract a lot more tourists from Europe. But needs to make the right investment,” Henschel added.
Commenting on the Oman operations of LCCI, Henschel said they have been in the Sultanate in the last few years and have recorded very good performance, thanks to the expertise and efforts of KR house of Travel, their local partner. “They are doing an excellent job, expanding business. Oman is very important to us because it is a centre of business and leisure travel,” Henschel said. On the opening of their new office he said, “We are very proud and happy that we could open at this location in Muscat.”
LCC is the largest independent travel agency franchise system providing individual tailor-made customer service for both leisure and corporate customers. It currently has over 650 offices in over 80 countries around the world.
LCC is not part of the Lufthansa German Airlines but they are allowed to use Lufthansa brand, which is one of the most valuable brands globally giving LCC many advantages. LCC handles leisure travel for tourists and also corporate travel. Their annual turnover is 5.6 billion Euros.
Uniqueness of Oman
Analysing the uniqueness of Oman, Henschel added that the country has excellent beaches, good weather, very good quality hotels and is stable and safe. Praising the controlled development model of Oman, Henschel said, regulated development preserving the natural beauty is the right way for Oman rather than building skyscrapers.
Commenting further he said, “Many tourists consider Muscat as a stopover venue. Muscat is a port of call for many cruise ships and tourists on long-haul flights. But they spend only half a day or a day in Oman. The country needs to be creative enough to make them come back for a longer stay like a week, said Henschel.
Cashio Vettom, Khimji’s House of Travel, LCCI, GM, pointed out that Oman has many unexplored, lush spots, especially in the interiors of the country which can’t be covered in a day. “Those are the areas where we can improve and try if we could attract more people to there. We are cooperating with the authorities and other agencies,” he said. Thanking LCC for organising a Regional Assembly (meeting of franchisees of LCC from the region) in Oman a few years ago he said, the event participated by more than 70 tour operators helped to promote Oman tourism.
Helping Oman to develop tourism
On developing tourism in Oman Henschel said, “We have the ability to contribute to the development of tourism in Oman and are ready to do it. We would like to hold a general assembly here with 500 tour operators which would help to widen the awareness on tourism potential of Oman but would need huge support from national tourism authorities of Oman,” added Henschel.
“We provide training for handling groups, and also provide our partners with special products like Global Incoming Network (GIN) which is a platform through which they can promote themselves within the network. That platform is now within all our city centers and any city centre can buy programmes from the others in the network. GIN is an ideal platform to bring business to Oman from all other centers, he added.
On the prospects of Lufthansa city centre promoting Oman as the ‘Destination of the Year’, Henschel said if tourism authorities in Oman give them ideas and support with products and money LCC can do it. Such a project would be an awesome opportunity to promote Oman, he added.
Stressing on the aspect of communication, Henschel said, it is very important to provide authentic information on Oman to others. Potential tourists from around the world should be made to know about the different features of Oman. Tour operators should build innovative products for that.
Commenting on the current scenario in the tourism sector Henschel said, on an average 2015 was good for the industry. While business grew in some parts of the world it was hit in some other parts. Corporate tourism segment has been hit. Low oil price and its impact have created problems for tourism industry. While political tensions in part of Europe, West Asia and Africa had a negative impact on tourism sector in 2015, certain parts of Europe like Spain and Italy recorded growth.
Henschel said he expects the current year to be positive for Oman tourism industry as the Government has intensified efforts to develop the sector. He said LCC has initiated many steps to promote Oman within their network.
Network in ME
Commenting on the operations in the Middle East Andrej Skraba, Senior Area Manager, Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East said, LCCI has 35 Lufthansa city centre offices in the MENA. The network covers countries in North Africa, West Asia and GCC. “We give lot of importance to the region. Our partners in the region use our network and make a lot of packages for tourists,” he said.
“We would like to develop and expand the network as much as possible in the coming days. But we are particular to maintain our standards. So we are not taking everybody in our network. We have a corporate identity which is the same all over world for travel shops, and stringent internal standards, training for staff, and a lot of IT platforms through which we support our partners,” he said.