Economic potential of festival tourism in Oman

BADER AL KIYUMI – baderalkiyumi@hotmail.com – Festival tourism plays a vital role in the development of tourism sector. Tourism related services, which include travel, accommodation, restaurants, shopping being the major beneficiaries. The economic impact of tourism arises principally from the consumption of tourism products in any geographical area. Nowadays, this worthy sector gains good attention in most of the countries around the world.
Recently a friend of mine who works as a journalist in an Arab country visited the Sultanate. We both met and chatted on the ongoing Muscat Festival.
We discussed about the general situation in the Arab world and later dwelt upon the economic potential of festival tourism.
While we argued on several issues we agreed that most countries depend on the tourism sector and the concept of festival tourism which goes to play a major role in the development of tourism. It helps to improve the country’s GDP and put the country on the world tourism map.
Many Asian countries organise elaborate festivals in a year which helps them to run the economy. We have the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival (China), Chinese New Year (Singapore), Taiwan Lantern Festival (Taiwan), Rainforest World Music Festival (Borneo/Malaysia) or Songkran (Thailand) and many more. These festivals attract millions of visitors annually to their respective countries and not to mention the top musical festivals organised elaborately in Southeast Asia.
My friend who was on his maiden visit to the Sultanate enquired about the tourism sector and the turnout at these festivals.
The NCSI conducted a poll among 1,501 Omanis, both male and female, in the 18-year and above age category, from all the governorates of the Sultanate, and with varying levels of education.
He was surprised to know about the absence of the Muscat Festival at malls and traditional markets which would have gained wider support and help revive the traditional craft sector in the country.
As festivals help promote the country heritage and history it also promotes its economic and tourist-related output.
Our discussions centred around hospitality benefits during festivals and how countries dish out offers during such festivals. In Oman most of the hotels hike their prices but do not give offers to attract tourists.
Towns and cities are increasingly keen to share their culture, environment and spending opportunities with visitors by promoting such festivals. Income can be generated from festivals but the true value of visitor spend is much more complex to calculate.
Actually we have no clear-cut idea about the reservation in hotels and if it comes through international tourists or through the organisers only as it invites certain people who come to participate at different events.
We need to have a comprehensive report after the festival which reveals how many visitors both local and international and their countries and the cost factor.
The study also found that the level of education also influenced travel decisions and showed that the proportion of individuals who have made domestic trips significantly increases with the level of education and the proportion decreases significantly with age. Marital status of an individual does not affect the tourist activity, the poll found.
The NCSI poll reveals the main source of information for domestic tourists about tourist attractions is family and friends. Fourteen per cent of the people chose the destination on the advice of their parents or friends.
The other reasons cited by the respondents at lower rates are proximity to the place of residence, fame of the place, shopping facilities among others.
Festival tourism has thus become a contributor to sustainable local economic development which we need to focus upon.