Muscat: The Governorate of Dhofar is gearing up to receive more European tourist groups during the winter tourism season this year. The Ministry of Tourism is also working on several projects and a promotion plan to make tourism components of Dhofar more attractive. Marhoon bin Said al Amri, Director General of Tourism in the Governorate of Dhofar, said that the tourism activity was expected to witness a significant growth in the near future as more tourists of different nationalities were expected to visit the Sultanate.
More European tourists are expected to visit the Sultanate during this winter season. Groups of tourists from Germany, France, Italy, Czech, Slovakia, Poland, Russia and other European countries visit the Sultanate either by flights to Salalah Airport or by cruise ships to Salalah Port.
He added that with the opening of more avenues, such as the Russian market, the tourism activity will significantly increase in the governorate. It is expected that the number of Russian tourists who will visit Dhofar for the first time will be 5,400.
Regarding tourism promotional efforts for the Governorate of Dhofar, Al Amri said that these efforts started by the ministry with the launch of its “Dhofar Land for all Seasons”. The ministry has also developed a strategy to introduce Dhofar as a unique tourist destination on the world tourism map. This was effectively translated into reality when the ministry highlighted components of the Governorate of Dhofar by participating in international exhibitions and promotional campaigns launched around the world.
The ministry has also attracted international television channels and newspapers to prepare reports on Dhofar. It also received delegations of tourism offices from around the world. The ministry also worked with various major shipping companies, which own cruise ships to put the Port of Salalah as their main stay to attract famous tourist vessels. The 90 per cent occupancy rate during winter tourism season was evident of these efforts. It showed that the efforts made by the ministry and its partners were successful in marketing the winter season to the entire world.
On the preparations for the winter tourism, Marhoon al Amri said that a number of projects were completed and opened up in Dhofar to support the growth and revitalisation of tourism in different seasons of the year. These projects included Salalah International Airport and a number of tourist resorts, including the recently opened Al Baleed Tourist Resort, a group of hotel apartments, commercial complexes and other tourism projects.
The directorate also held meetings and participated in several meetings at Salalah Airport and the Port of Salalah in the presence of all concerned government agencies and companies, which work in the area of tourism, shipping firms and agents to discuss preparations and apprise them about the level of readiness from all aspects for the winter tourism season.
During these meetings, they discussed all challenges and their possible solutions. The monitoring teams of the ministry conducted ground visits and inspected hotels and tourist camps to gauge the standards of hotel services offered to tourists and the level of their conformity with the requirements of the ministry. It also inspected new hotels and hotel apartments, which have showed their readiness to receive tourists to see if they provide required services.
Al Amri said that Dhofar has moderate weather for most part of the year, making it a preferred destination for European tourists in the winter. The governorate enjoys many attractions, as well as it has other charming natural components, such as beaches, mountains, wadis and deserts. Dhofar enjoys diverse coastal, rural and desert environments, which are attractive for the tourists.
There are many sites in the governorate which are visited by tourists during the winter season. They include archaeological heritage sites, such as Al Baleed and Land of Frankincense Museum and Samhram and traditional markets or souqs, in addition to natural sites, such as sites of agriculture of frankincense trees and desert of the Empty Quarter or “Al Rubu Al Khali”. Tourists can enjoy diving and watching the corals and indulge in other marine sports and activities like dolphins, whales and birds watching.
He said that there were significant returns for all those who are involved in the sector through the arrival of tourists from European countries. These tourists either come directly or indirectly by air or by cruise ship during winter. The visit fees and fees for clearance of procedures at airports and ports or agreements with travel and tourism companies or taxis have added economic value.
There is an increase in such activities year after year. The tourists, when they arrive, spend money at various places, including restaurants and markets. This revitalises the economic and commercial activity in the governorate. Rowas bin Hafeez al Rowas, Director General for Tourism Development and Investors Services, said that the meetings were held with the tourism companies to ascertain their readiness for the season, especially those companies, which organise tours for groups, particularly those who come to Salalah from European countries.
He said that after facilitating entry visa for Russians, Iranians and Chinese nationals, it is expected that their tourist groups would arrive in Dhofar during this season. Al Rowas said that there was a coordination mechanism in the air and sea corridors between representatives of tourism companies to help in the entry procedures of tourists, whether they are coming by air or by sea. A meeting was held with the Oman Airports Management Company in this regard, as well as with the management of Salalah Port.
The inspection teams of the directorate also visited the tourist establishments to monitor the level of services they provide and check if they maintain the quality according to the standards. These visits were also important to alert tour guides to carry out their work to the fullest and abide by the rules and regulations, which protect the rights of tourists, companies and guides.
Mohammed bin Ali al Maashani, Director of Government Relations at Salalah Beach Development Company (Hawana Salalah), said winter tourism is also popular in Dhofar and can grow further if tourism services were completed. He said that the occupancy rate has reached 93 per cent. Most of the tourists are from Italy, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, France and Slovakia.
About activities being organised in Dhofar during winter season, Al Maashani said that these activities ranged from visiting beaches, mountains and desert trips, morning and evening parties and shopping in popular souqs. –ONA