Azzan Qassim Al Busaidi, Undersecretary for Tourism at the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, talks about the importance of tourism for the country’s economy, and how the Sultanate is looking to develop its tourism offering
The market has changed a lot over the years with new trends emerging. How is this reflected in Oman’s promotion?
I think the trends that we have seen setting up are very related to sustainability, protecting nature and fighting climate change. They are linked to the sourcing and promotion of local ingredients. Oman has always promoted this authentic taste which is also a way to get very close to its communities. We are also looking at boosting our cultural offer in the field of arts as well as a museum based on an Oman narrative.
Is there a particular field of tourism activity that you feel to be important?
I want to particularly emphasise adventure tourism. It is a sector that has been identified for a long time for its strong potential. Following the pandemic, it has grown in importance and consequently remains at the core of our promotion strategy. For example, we are working hard to further strengthen safety regulations for adventure travellers practicing sports and activities in Oman.
ITB Berlin helps us to achieve our target in terms of arrivals from Germany and the rest of the world
How quick did tourism bounce back in 2022 and what are your 2023 forecasts?
Restrictions were already lifted by the last quarter of 2021. Then 2022 turned back into a “normal” year to come to Oman, although many of our inbound markets continued to be affected by restrictions at home in the first quarter of 2022. In 2022, we finished the year with 2.9 million international visitors. This represented a growth of 348% over 2021, which already represented 83% of 2019 numbers. The recovery was quicker than what we had previously forecast as we thought it would take us 2 to 3 years to get back to the 3.5 million visitors achieved in 2019. Hotels also performed well with 3- to 5-star properties experiencing an 80% average increase of their total revenue.
How is ITB Berlin helping Oman tourism get increased visibility?
ITB Berlin helps us to achieve our target in terms of arrivals from Germany and the rest of the world. Germany is one of our top markets. Last year, German travellers already generated 81,000 arrivals, up 380% over the previous year. We also saw growing numbers of travellers from France, the UK or Italy as well as from new markets such as the Czech Republic and Poland. ITB Berlin is the perfect platform to showcase our country to all European markets.
Oman tourism has ambitious targets for 2040
One of the pillars of Oman’s 2040 economic vision is to increase revenue from tourism. The contribution of the tourism sector to the gross domestic product was 2.4% in 2021; the country aims to increase it to 5% by 2030, and 10% by 2040. The goal is to increase the number of visitors to 11.7 million by 2040 by investing US$51 billion. It has been calculated that such an investment will generate more than 9 billion Omani rials (US$22.5 billion) a year from tourism by 2040.
Wild camping in Oman
Oman’s ministry of tourism invites travellers to follow a trend set up by young Omanis: camping. Enjoying the glowing stars in the midst of the Sultanate’s spectacular landscapes is gaining in popularity. Nature lovers can camp almost anywhere in the country at the site of their choice and free of charge. Restrictions only apply to nature reserves.
The most beautiful camping spots include:
- Beaches: Ras Madrakah Beach near Duqm, the sandy beach west of Khasab in Musandam or Al Fazayah Beach south of Salalah in Dhofar.
- Mountains: On the plateau of Oman’s highest mountain, the Jabal Shams at 3,075 metres, the camping site of Jabal Akhdar on the Saiq plateau at around 2,300 metres with 360-degree views,
- The sand deserts Sharqiya Sands, about three hours by car from Muscat, and Rub al-Khali, with its up to 300-metre-high dunes northwest of Salalah.