HE Maitha Al-Mahrouqi
Ministry of Tourism
The priority area of tourism sector is to achieve economic development, provide job opportunities, maintain natural & cultural heritage and achieve cross-cultural peaceful coexistence.
The Ministry of Tourism works in co-operation with different stakeholders and local communities to develop Oman’s tourism sector with more investment; to promote the Sultanate as a tourism destination; and to increase the sector’s contribution to the national GDP. This can be achieved through adopting a policy of diversifying the sources of national income, creating job opportunities while preserving the natural, social and cultural environment, enriching the society through commitment to sustainable development of the tourism sector. The priority area of the sector is achieving economic development, providing job opportunities, maintaining natural and cultural heritage and achieving cross-cultural peaceful coexistence.
According to the statistics of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) for the year 2014, the number of tourists in the world grew by 4.7 per cent, or 1 million, while the number of tourists who entered the Sultanate during the same year grew by 7 per cent to 2,098million, compared with 1,961 million in 2013.
This has a positive impact on hotel occupancy rates and revenue. Occupancy rates of four-star and five-star hotels grew by 2.7 per cent compared with 2013, while revenue rose by 10.3 per cent. In order to develop the tourism sector and raise its contribution to the national economy, the Ministry of Tourism is providing important tourism services to attract tourists and residents and to encourage local and overseas tourism movement. As many as 18 hotels were inaugurated across the Sultanate during the period. The ministry has also undertaken rehabilitation and maintenance works for several archaeological sites, like ancient castles and forts. It has also restored and provided several tourist services.
The hospitality and hotels sector maintained its growth rates in 2014. The number of hotel and hospitality facilities in the Sultanate rose by 5.3 per cent to reach 297 , compared with 282 hotels in 2013. The total number of hotel rooms rose by 7.3 per cent to 15,424 compared with 14,369 rooms in 2013. The number of beds increased by 6.6 per cent to 24,004 compared with 22,521 a year earlier. With regard to the number of visitors to various tourist sites, the Governorate of Dhofar tops the list of the most attractive tourist destination in the country especially during the autumn season, as a total of 431,105 tourists visited the Governorate last year.
Tourist arrivals from GCC grew by 4.9 per cent in 2014 over 2013 with 849,456 visitors, while the rate of increase for those arriving from Asia was 9.1 per cent and Europe 8.5 per cent, with visitor numbers amounting to 474,653 and 403,297 respectively.
The number of GCC visitors to Oman rose by 4.9 per cent to 849,456, compared with 810,000 in 2013, followed by Asians, increasing 9.1 per cent to 474,653 from 435,067 in 2013 and Europeans who rose by 8.5 per cent to 403,297 from 371,741. The year 2014 also witnessed the opening of four regional departments as the ministry seeks to promote tourism infrastructure to enable them to achieve future capabilities. In order to realize the true potential of tourism in the interiors, four regional directorates were set up last year. This initiative has been taken to develop and support infrastructure, responsible for the development of tourism in interior governorates so as to enable them to achieve their true potential. For the purpose, four tourism directorates were opened in Ibri in Dhahirah, Haima in Wusta, Ibra in North Sharqiyah and Rustaq in South Batinah.
OMAN TOURISM STRATEGY
Oman Tourism Strategy Study 2014-2015, currently prepared by the Ministry of Tourism, comes in line with the strategic planning approach adopted by the Sultanate. This is expressed in the announcement made by the Supreme Council for Planning of starting the preparation of the comprehensive Future Vision (Oman 2040). The ministry is keen to make the tourism strategy in consistent with this comprehensive vision.
The key objectives of the strategy include increasing the tourism sector’s contribution to Oman’s GDP, as a main source of national income and creating job opportunities for Omani national manpower. The strategy is linked to sustainable development, which is closely linked to all other sectors, and the pioneering role played by tourism investment projects in advancing local communities across the Sultanate.
Oman Tourism Strategy is based on underscoring the Sultanate’s competitive edge in tourism, with its rich historical and cultural heritage. The ministry laid out key objectives and specified pillars and identified the challenges which may face the sector, mainly focusing on the key strategic objectives-creating job opportunities for Omani national manpower and increasing tourism contribution to the country’s GDP. The Ministry of Tourism saw that the effectiveness of achieving the strategy lies in conducting positive dialogue and consultation with all experienced stakeholders. In this regard, the ministry has organised, in collaboration with the consulting company, a series of workshops and seminars with the participation of several tourism development related stakeholders, ministers, experts from various sectors such as environment, transportation, investment, private sector, heritage and education, to determine key issues, pillars and available opportunities to advance tourism and to increase its contribution in economic development, investment attraction and job market.
In addition, surveys, seminars and workshops were held nationwide to expand the effective participation to include stakeholders in governorates and local communities and to allow civil tourism sectors to positively take part in laying out the strategy, understand the key issues and challenges and to spot the available opportunities for developing tourism both locally and internationally, and to lay out a future vision.
The Ministry of Tourism undertakes several projects in various governorates of the Sultanate, through which it seeks to provide basic services needed by tourists and residents during their visit. The ministry plans to implement the following projects:
Al Ashkharah beach waterfront – The project shall be set up to serve internal and external tourism for the purpose of absorbing the increased tourism growth witnessed by the beach and to receive visitors on a daily basis as a distinguished tourism destination. The most important components of the project include tourist facilities- public WCs- Umbrellas family shades- tourist restaurants and cafes- gift and goods shops- walk and bike tracks along the beach- car parks – other landscape works.
- Several facilities were set up in Al Jabal Al Akhdar which attracts many tourists thanks to its distinguished mountainous location and low temperature.
- Consultation works to develop Al Thawarah Hot Spring in the Wilayat of Nakhal. The ministry sought to develop the tourist valleys project and provide it with the necessary services.
- Heritage Projects. Developing castles and forts is a priority area for the Ministry of Tourism. These projects are carried out under the supervision of the Ministry to make visitors aware of the Omani history and heritage, and archaeological features of these areas.
The integrated tourism projects, carried out in cooperation with the private sector, include integrated tourism complexes which aim to boost tourism in the Sultanate and activate tourism investments. These projects, still under execution, include Salalah Beach project, Saraya Bandar Jissah, The Wave, Ras Al Hadd project and Omagine project in Seeb.
The ministry received numerous awards during 2014 in recognition of its efforts in promoting the Sultanate as a distinguished tourist destination with its unique nature and various projects. These awards include UNESCO award for Muscat Geoheritage Auto Guide, Best website award for the Ministry of Tourism, Arab Strategic Web Awards for the official website of the ministry of tourism www.omantourism.gov.om. In addition, the ministry received several awards in the field of travel and tourism through its various participations in 2014.