The Sultanate of Oman is eyeing a 10 percent growth in tourism arrivals for 2012.
Oman’s Ministry of Tourism has also revealed plans to increase the GDP contribution of tourism from two percent in 2011 to around 3.5 percent in 2015, while making sweeping changes to visa arrangements that should assist its goals to boost inbound visitor numbers.
These targets and changes in strategy come as Oman celebrates many accolades. The destination was ranked among the ‘20 Top Tourist Destinations in the World’ in the latest edition of the National Geographic magazine – the only Arab country to figure in the elite list, while the capital Muscat has been ranked the second best city in the world to visit in 2012 by Lonely Planet. The city has also been declared the Arab Tourism Capital for 2012 by the Arab Tourism Ministers’ Council.
“These recent recognitions affirm the strong global interest in Muscat and Oman in general as a leisure, lifestyle and business destination,” said Haitham Mohammed Ghasani, Director of Tourism Promotion, Oman Ministry of Tourism. “We take great pride in the diversity of our country’s tourist attractions throughout different seasons, which include scenic spots, adventure destinations and eco-tourism packages. We expect 2012 to be a turning point in our efforts to take the performance of our tourism sector to the next level.”
Oman’s ongoing tourism plans include the study of around 30 locations across the country such as the Al Hoota, Majlis al Jinn and Suhoor Caves for potential tourism development and the construction of an archaeological park and museum at the recently discovered Friday Mosque in Qalhat built around 1300 AD.
Meanwhile, Oman’s Minister of Tourism His Excellency Sheikh Abdulmalik Al Khalili has given the green light to change visa arrangements in a bid to lure more visitors to the Sultanate.
The new arrangements include an US$13 fee for a single-entry tourism visa for up to 10 days and US$52 for a single-entry visa for stays between 10 days and a month. Visa fees for passengers arriving on cruise ships and staying for less than 48 hours are to be waived and multiple-entry visas will be priced at US$13.
“This is great news for Oman’s tourism industry and our trade network,” said Al Khalili. “The changes will build business across all markets and lure more stop-over, short-break, incentive and business travel to Oman and we expect more convention and meetings organisers to look at Oman as a conference location.”