With the onset of winter, the on-going Muscat Festival and the recently concluded Tour of Oman, the Sultanate has been witnessing a steady stream of visitors to its various iconic landmarks and other topographical attractions these days giving a major fillip to the national income.
Several vessels from countries like Germany, Italy and Sweden are calling at the Port Sultan Qaboos (PSQ) ferrying foreigners up and down the wonders of Muscat and elsewhere regularly.
The travel and tourism sector has been a major GDP contributor. The direct contribution of Travel and Tourism to GDP in 2011 was RO 768.9 million (3 per cent of GDP).
This was forecast to rise by 5.7 per cent to RO 812.4 million in 2012. This primarily reflects the economic activity generated by industries such as hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services excluding commuter services.
The direct contribution of Travel and Tourism to GDP is expected to grow by 5.2 per cent per annum to RO1,342.6 million (3.5 per cent of GDP) by 2022.
The total contribution of Travel and Tourism to GDP (including wider effects from investment, the supply chain and induced income impacts) was RO 1,649.8 million in 2011 (6.5 per cent of GDP) and was expected to grow by 5.8 per cent to RO 1,744.9 million (6.6 per cent of GDP) in 2012. It is forecast to rise by 5.3 per cent per annum to RO 2,934.9 million by 2022 (7.5 per cent of GDP).
There have been remarkable attempts from the public and private sectors in wooing the tourists to the country. Through soft loans, incentives and the lifting of visa and trade restrictions, the government is luring various companies and consortia with interests in leisure travel, to invest in the country.
Older, well-heeled tourists from Europe, Great Britain and North America, in particular eco-tourists and travellers interested in cultural tourism are a prime market for Oman. Such travellers have the time and the money to travel to a long-haul destination.
Those who want to bask in the sun and experience the 365 days' sunshine prefer the country by all means.
Tapping on the booming market for tourism, the construction of new resorts and hotels are well under way, in anticipation of the growth that the government expects during the next decades.
The ambitious Muscat International and Salalah airports which are scheduled to be complete by 2014 are also expected to play a crucial role in catering to the increasing number of tourists to the country.
Upon completion, the Muscat International Airport will be able to accommodate 12 million annual passengers which can be raised to 24 million passengers annually, followed by 36 million in the final stage, the capacity will reach 48 million passengers a year, according to the airport sources.
Further, to give tourism a fillip, the Ministry of Tourism has set up traditional Omani tents at the Sultan Qaboos Port aiming at offering a first-hand experience of the time-tested Omani culture and traditions to the foreigners who visit the country by sea.
The opening of the cultural tents at the port coincides with the onset of tourism season when cruise vessels call at the Sultan Qaboos Port, which has been declared as the complete tourist port and the work to transform it is afoot.
According to the latest statistics, the tourism sector in Oman is poised for further development in the coming years and the public and private sectors are all getting set to welcome the surging number of tourists.
Oman Daily Observer