Oman's tourism sector is set to significantly boost with the increasing number of cruise liners docking at Omani ports.
The Ministry of Heritage and Tourism anticipates that before the end of the year, over 100,000 foreign tourists will visit Oman aboard cruise ships, making more than 142 port visits.
This surge in cruise ship tourism is expected to not only benefit the tourism industry but also have a positive ripple effect on the retail business and transportation, thanks to the post-Covid resurgence in tourism-related activities.
In 2022, Oman's major ports, including Sultan Qaboos Tourist Port, Port of Salalah, and Khasab Port, welcomed an average of 77 vessels carrying 85,092 tourists. This number is projected to increase by at least 25 per cent in 2023, building upon the steady growth witnessed in the past four years, which saw a 43.6 per cent increase in cruise ship tourists in 2019, totalling 283,488 passengers.
The ministry attributes this growth in the number of vessels and tourists visiting Oman to the government's initiatives, such as infrastructure development and robust tourism campaigns highlighting Oman's rich culture, heritage, diverse adventures, and popular attractions. Furthermore, the winter season from October to April 2023 is expected to see the highest influx of tourists.
The ministry has been actively collaborating with government entities, the private sector, ship owners, and operators to enhance cruise tourism in Oman and improve the efficiency of local ports to accommodate larger cruise ships. Unlike in the past, when ships would merely pass through Oman's waters, more ships are now keen to dock at Omani ports, thanks to the government's open policies, which have led to increased economic opportunities for Omanis, SMEs, and startups.
A tailor-made tour programme for cruise tourists includes visits to essential archaeological and tourist attractions in Muscat, such as forts, the Grand Mosque, Royal Opera House, the Corniche, and more. Additionally, iconic places in Dhofar Governorate, including Al Baleed Archaeological Site, Sumharam, Al Mughassil, Al Haffa Market, and Taqah Fort, are on the itinerary.
According to the Oman cruise port calendar for 2023, these ships are expected to bring in over 150,000 passengers to Oman, docking at the three main ports. Some tourists will spend a day or two exploring the Sultanate, while others may leave the same day after visiting the most sought-after tourist destinations.
In 2024, several prominent cruise liners, including Costa Toscana, AIDAcosma, MSC Opera, Mein Schiff 6, Queen Mary 2, and Norwegian Jade, are scheduled to make port calls in Oman. Oman's ambitious cruise tourism plans align with its growing popularity in the European market, and the government's policies have led to an increasing number of charters and cruise liners choosing Oman as a destination. This surge in cruise liners not only enhances the tourism sector but also significantly contributes to Oman's economy.
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