Mar 07 2012
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Oman plans to boost hotel room capacity
Wednesday, Mar 07, 2012
Muscat Increasing hotel room capacity is a top priority to keep up with the growing tourism industry in Oman, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Tourism.
“The tourism industry’s contribution to GDP last year was 2.6 per cent,” Haitham Al Gasani, Director of Tourism Promotion and Awareness at the Ministry, said.
He said according to a projection by the Finance Ministry’s plan the tourism industry would contribute three per cent of GDP in 2020. “We are almost there now and the industry will keep growing.”
“It is a simple rule of demand and supply,” he reasoned. “We need to have more rooms to meet with the increasing number of tourists. Currently, we have 229 hotels and apartments that offer about 11,000 rooms,” he said.
He said the ministry planned to train locals to run smaller budget accommodations in interior areas frequented by foreign tourists as well as local visitors.
He agreed that the Arab Spring did impact the inflow of tourists. “We have improved our awareness campaign in European countries to tell people how safe and peaceful Oman is.
“Germany and Britain are our big markets, but now we are trying to attract tourists from France and Italy as well,” he said, adding that tourism offices were opened in these countries to promote Oman’s potential as a tourist destination. He agreed that China and India also had great potential to attract tourists to Oman. “I noticed during my recent visit to India that there was a great scope to get tourists from India to Oman,” he said.
Visa for tourists
Asked about difficulties in getting visas for tourists from Asian countries, Al Gasani denied any problems. “We have 30 top tour operators in the country and they can arrange visas as well as all other requirements for tourists from anywhere,” he said.
He denied that there were any complaints about difficulties in procuring visas to Oman. “We have never had any complaints from any tour operators,” he said.
He also reiterated that Oman preferred genuine tourists looking to explore the country’s diverse natural beauty. “We are looking at quality, not quantity.”
He was also optimistic about the potential of the cruise industry that is rapidly growing in the region. “The cruise sector is important,” he said. “We now have a special terminal to cater to the cruise ships, their crew and passengers.” He added that the government also eased visa procedures for cruise tourists. Now Oman gives 48-hour free visas to cruise passengers.
“The cruise industry helps direct as well as indirect market growth in the country,” he said.
Tourism Ministry officials said they have tied up with Oman Air to bring passengers directly to join cruise ships at Muscat. “We are talking to major players in the cruise industry — like Royal Caribbean, Aida and Costa — to convince them to come to Oman,” he said.
By Sunil K. Vaidya ?Bureau Chief
© Gulf News 2012. All rights reserved.
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