Oman, a country of breathtaking natural beauty, interwoven with a kaleidoscope of history, legends and adventures, has tourism attractions to suit the tastes of travellers and visitors of every kind. It is a confluence of touristic attractions, presenting opportunities for travel buffs to indulge in a variety of activities, be it in the striking mountain ranges, the golden dunes of the deserts or the pristine beaches; enabling visitors to have new and unique experience of adventure, camping, sea-cruises, beach sports and more.
To up the tourism ante and ensure that tourists get more than their expectations, the Ministry of Tourism, in collaboration with other tourism entities, has put together special offers and developed the facilities to encourage tourism in different parts of the country – all through the year.
Visitors can enjoy the beauty of wadis such as Wadi Bani Khalid and Wadi Shab, and natural springs like Al Kasfah Hot Spring and Al Thowarah spring. Jabal Akhdar and Jabal Shams are some of the mountain ranges that are worth a visit and are characterised by their moderate temperature during summer. Oman is home to wonderful gems that provide visitors with unique experiences; the Khareef season in Dhofar is one such gem that attracts tourists from Oman and beyond.
A number of tourists, citizens and residents have expressed their preference to spend holidays in Oman, which is targeting different categories of tourists and encouraging them to visit the country again, as well as inviting them to explore the country’s unique tourism elements.
For Tanja Walter, Project Manager of the Development Cooperation with the Middle East and North Africa from Germany, it is the history and archaeological splendour of the country that is captivating. “I have visited the Sultanate four times over the past couple of years and feel that it is among the few countries that have managed to preserve its cultural identity and rich heritage. I am also impressed by the Omanis and their warm hospitality and continue to talk to my family and friends about them…” she maintains.
Balarab Sultan Al Hammadi, Mechanical Engineer at the Royal Air Force of Oman who enjoys visiting wadis to practice his hobby of swimming in fresh water, is keen to experience tourism components in different areas in the country. According to him, it is the diversity of the Sultanate’s terrain, which in itself is a tourism attraction.
It is the Omani hospitality that is proving to be an important attraction for overseas tourists, like Philip O’Hanlon, a psychologist from the United Kingdom. He notes, “The people of Oman are welcoming of visitors and tourists. It is fascinating how their culture combines the elements of ancient tradition and contemporary life. I find myself drawn to understand the culture of Oman, especially as it is unique, and does not resemble the cultures of the countries that I have visited previously.”
Saif Humood Al Badi, Electrical Engineer at the Royal Air Force of Oman and a nature enthusiast, who is fascinated by the beauty of nature in Oman, points out that tourism in the Sultanate has a distinct character. “I believe that tourism in Oman is based on its natural beauty. The beauty of any country lies in its uniqueness so that the tourist does not feel that they have witnessed it before. The same ideology should be applied in Oman. Even when adding a tourism service or attraction in a certain area, we should ensure that we preserve our natural environment, while making way for new experiences,” he states.
It is worth mentioning that the Ministry of Tourism is making continuous efforts to promote tourism products, services and projects in accordance with the Tourism 2040 Strategy that is aimed at upgrading the tourism sector in the Sultanate. The Strategy will see the Ministry investing about 20 billion Rials to create more than half a million jobs. The main objective is to provide around 80,000 rooms for accommodation, including 33,373 hotel rooms, 29,287 vacation home rooms and 17,262 integrated tourism complex (ITC) rooms.
This would also mean that Muscat’s share of accommodations would decrease from the present 53 percent to 30.8 percent by 2040, as more hotel rooms come up in other parts of the country. Dhofar’s share will rise from 12.6 percent to 23.8 percent. This move has been fuelled by Ministry’s projected growth in the tourism sector. It expects a growth of at least 11.7mn international and domestic tourists in 2040, which is a big jump from the 1.4mn in 2013.
The Tourism Ministry has also identified five types of natural sites for tourism – wildlife, mountains, wadis, deserts and coasts – alongside five elements of culture and heritage – cities and villages, world heritage sites, cultural heritage, symbols, and norms and traditions. Fourteen clusters of tourist infrastructure will be built around the country as per regional attributes, including coastal areas, bronze and Iron Age ruins, castles, mountains, villages and wadis, bedouin region and Rub al Khali.