Tourist ar­rivals rise in Sul­tanate

Study shows in­dus­try’s re­silience amidst slow­down, flu scare

Times of Oman - - FRONT PAGE - By Mrudu Naik & De­bo­jy­oti Ghosh

MUS­CAT — The Sul­tanate’s tourism in­dus­try has shown re­silience in the wake of the global slow­down and the flu scare, ac­cord­ing to a Stan­dard Char­tered Bank (SCB) study.

The re­port says the num­ber of tourist ar­rivals over the first five months rose 17.5 per cent as com­pared to last year. The study also re­ports a 3.9 per cent rise in rev­enue.

With its econ­omy di­ver­si­fy­ing, the Sul­tanate is in­creas­ingly bank­ing on its tourism sec­tor. “The di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion strat­egy of tourism is pay­ing off. De­spite the cri­sis, early in­di­ca­tors are en­cour­ag­ing,” said Philippe Dauba-Pan­tanacce, econ­o­mist, Stan­dard Char­tered Bank.

Promis­ing fu­ture

Com­pared to other GCC na­tions, Oman is ahead in terms of at­tract­ing tourists. “The ar­rival fig­ures have so far been en­cour­ag­ing. We have man­aged to re­tain our share,” said Ma­hesh Ra­ma­murthy, man­ager, Bah­wan Tours.

“The fu­ture looks promis­ing as there has been a rise in in­quiries for travel in Oc­to­ber to De­cem­ber. With Ra­madan end­ing in third week of Septem­ber, we can ex­pect a lot of tourists by Oc­to­ber,” he said.

The push from the gov­ern­ment, es­pe­cially the Tourism Min­istry, has given the sec­tor a boost. The gov­ern­ment has plans to spend $17 bil­lion, a 10 per cent in­crease in pub­lic spending, this year.

Close to $6 bil­lion, in­clud­ing the $1.17 bil­lion mod­erni­sa­tion and ex­pan­sion plan of Mus­cat Air­port, had been dis­bursed by May, said the SCB re­port.

Oman Air, the na­tional car­rier, has plans to start flights to new des­ti­na­tions across Europe and Asia, in­clud­ing Paris, Frankfurt, Mu­nich, Mal­dives and Colombo, this year.

While flights to Frankfurt and Mu­nich is planned to start by end of Septem­ber, the air­line will add Paris, Mal­dives and Colombo to its global net­work by Oc­to­ber, of­fi­cials said.

Mean­while, ho­tels in the Sul­tanate have reg­is­tered a rise in book­ings , sources said.

Two ma­jor projects, long de­layed, have been com­pleted re­cently. “Com­ple­tion of The Wave will bring back con­fi­dence, and should also help con­sol­i­date Oman’s im­age as a des­ti­na­tion of choice,” said Dauba-Pan­tanacce.

The Mus­cat Hills Golf and Coun­try Club has opened, al­beit five years late. “This mile­stone will help es­tab­lish Oman’s im­age as a high-end des­ti­na­tion.”

Oman’s tourist-friend­li­ness at­tracts trav­ellers, of­fi­cials at Der­tour, one of Ger­many’s largest tour op­er­a­tors, said. In Oman, Der­tour part­ners with Za­hara Tours. “De­spite the cri­sis, we are sure of a 15 per cent growth in tourism,” said Ca­rina Baug­m­gar­ner of Der­tour.

Sim­i­larly, Switzer­land-based Hol­i­day Maker Tours AG have been sell­ing Oman as a des­ti­na­tion for 20 years and claims to have brought in 20,000 vis­i­tors. “As de­mand for Oman as a tourist des­ti­na­tion is ris­ing, the fu­ture is pos­i­tive,” said Harsh Abrol, man­ager, Za­hara Tours.

In the last quar­ter of 2008, num­ber of guests rose to 400,000 and rev­enue reached RO51 mil­lion at all ho­tels in the Sul­tanate, Min­istry of Na­tional Econ­omy statis­tics in­di­cates.

High oc­cu­pancy

Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial data, the four and five-star rated ho­tels oc­cu­pancy and rev­enue have in­di­cated high growth rates in first three months this year.

In first quar­ter of 2009 the num­ber of guests in­creased to 217,000 com­pared with 194,000 last year, an av­er­age an­nual growth rate of 12.4 per cent.

To­tal rev­enue for th­ese ho­tels reached an an­nual growth rate of 6.8 per cent in the first quar­ter of 2009, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial data.

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