MUSCAT, June 5 – The Sultanate has received 3.3 million tourists last year, which is 4.7 per cent more than the numbers in 2016, according to statistics revealed by the Ministry of Tourism. The ministry has made significant achievements in 2017 in developing the sector and this is evident in all areas of the sector. The number of visitors who came by ships touched 222,000 in 2017, showing an increase of 2.3 per cent compared to 2016. There was an increase of 8.9 per cent of licensed hotel facilities in 2017 reaching 367 from 337 in 2016. Similarly, the number of hotel rooms also increased from 18,825 in 2016 to 20,581 in 2017, which is an increase of 9.3 per cent.
The number of beds rose by 7.6 per cent from 29,538 in 2016 to 31,774 in 2017. These developments were meant for supporting the Sultanate’s economic diversification policies, promotion of the tourism sector on which the government will rely in the coming years as a support to the national economy and to provide suitable hotel facilities for visitors, keeping pace with the growth of tourism in the country. The annual report of the ministry pointed out that the number of initial approvals for hotel facilities by the end of last year stood at 89, which would be providing 7,749 hotel rooms.
These include 18 one-star hotel facilities, 17 two-star hotels, 36 three-star hotels, 15 4-star hotels and three five-star hotels. Initial approvals also were given for construction of 32 hotel apartments which would provide 1,243 apartments. After initial approval, a period of one year is required by the ministry for final approvals. The report also said that the approvals for the initial implementation of hotel facilities are valid until the end of 2017. These are for hotel apartments of which 32 are of high standard and excellent establishments, 9 guest houses, 18 greenhouses, one heritage inn, 7 camps and 2 resorts. These facilities will have total 330 rooms.
The initial approvals for hotel establishments reached 89 distributed in various governorates of the Sultanate. Of them, two five-star hotels in Muscat Governorate and a hotel in North Batinah Governorate. Of 15 four-star hotels, 11 will be in Muscat Governorate, 2 in Dhofar Governorate, one each in North Batinah and South Batinah. Initial approvals were also given for the establishment of 36 three-star hotels in the Sultanate. They include 24 three-star hotels in the Muscat Governorate, 2 in Dhofar, 5 in North Batinah and 2 in Dhahirah, 1 each in North Sharqiyah, Buraimi and Musandam. Approvals for establishment of 17 two-star hotels were also given. These include 8 for Muscat Governorate, 4 for Dhofar, 2 for North Al Sharqiyah, one each for South Al Sharqiyah, North Batinah and South Batinah.
Also, approvals were given to establish 18 one-star hotels, of which 4 will be in Muscat Governorate, 3 in North Al Sharqiyah, 4 in South Al Sharqiyah, 2 in Dhahirah and one each in Dhofar, North Batinah, South Batinah and Buraimi. The report also said that the Muscat Governorate got the largest share in the number of hotel establishments expected to come up in future. The governorate is expected to have 49 new hotels. It is followed by Dhofar and North Batinah where 9 hotel establishments would be opened. They are followed by North Sharqiyah which will have 6 hotel facilities, then comes South Al Sharqiyah and Dhahirah, South Batinah and Buraimi, with the expected opening of 5, 4, 3 and 2 new hotel facilities respectively.
Then comes Al Dakhiliyah and Musandam which will have one new hotel facilities each.
According to the annual report of the ministry, currently there were 72 hotels under construction till 2017, which are expected to add 6,604 rooms to the facilities. The report also pointed out that the number of projects expected to start in 2018 and 2019, is for 55 hotels which will have 4,763 hotel rooms. Of them, 12 are one-star hotels, 19 two- star, 16 three-star, 5 four-star and 3 five-star hotels. The number of hotel apartments expected to open in 2018 and 2019 is 27, which would add 883 hotel apartments. Four camps are expected to provide 75 hotel rooms, according to the report. The report said that the number of licenses issued by the ministry in 2017 was 421 compared with 380 in 2016. These licenses were for various tourism activities, including 45 for accommodation facilities such as hotels, resorts, hotel apartments, tourist resorts, greenhouses and heritage homes.
The ministry granted 131 licenses for tourist guides. The annual report shows that in 2017 the number of tourists visiting Salalah tourism festival stood at 644,931, of which 71.1 per cent were Omanis. They are followed by Emiratis with 8.9 per cent and Saudis with 6.1 per cent, rest 3.3 per cent were from all other Gulf countries. It means that Omanis and people from other Gulf countries constituted 89.4 per cent. Tourists from other countries stood at 10.7 per cent. The report also said that in 2017 visitors to Jabal Akhdhar increased from 233,012 compared with 162,499 during 2016, an increase of 43.4 per cent. Of which foreigners were 45.1 per cent, followed by Omanis 44.8 per cent, people from Gulf 6.6 per cent and other Arabs were 3.4 per cent.