Oman Observer

Enchanting Salalah

All roads lead to Salalah as the Khareef season in the southern region of Oman has gathered momentum. While the rest of Arabia is baking under the scorching sun, people in large numbers are thronging the region to make the best of their holidays.
Dhofar is known for its lush verdant hills, green valleys, breath-taking waterfalls, the sensuous mist and intermittent enchanting showers.
The governorate stretches over an area of one third of Oman and includes a distinctive natural diversity where the coast blends with the mountains and the desert in wonderful harmony.
The mountains look like a fertile crescent, rising to a height of 1,500 metres and then descending into a flat plain that embraces sandy beaches stretching for hundreds of kilometres.
Dubbed as the family meeting place, the Salalah Tourism Festival (STF) is becoming increasingly popular among Gulf nationals, expatriates and foreign tourists.
This is very much evident from the presence of large number of cars with number plates of neighbouring countries.
According to data from the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), the number of people who visited Salalah from Gulf countries, including Oman, during the Khareef season registered a significant increase during current season.
Most of the tourists arrive via road travel. There has also been a marked increase in the number of flights to Salalah, made possible by Oman Air, SalamAir and other major airline carriers in the region.
“A plenty of cars from different countries in the region are seen in Salalah during the season”, said Syed al Yakoobi, who works in Salalah Port.
Last year, there was a 27-per cent increase in the number of visitors to the area during Salalah Tourism Festival and those numbers don’t show any signs of slowing down any time soon. The NCSI data shows that arrivals of tourists to Salalah during the current season surged by 66.2 per cent to 177,712 between June 21 and July 18.
During the corresponding period last year, the number of tourists stood at 106,908 tourists.
The tourist arrivals during the fourth week between July 12 and 18 alone soared by 46.6 per cent to 71,744, from 48,922 of the third week of the current season, according to the latest statistics released by the NCSI.
Meanwhile, a survey by the centre showed that 78.4 per cent of the tourists numbering 56,235 who visited Salalah during the week came by road.
“This shows an increase of 82.3 per cent over 30,845 tourists who arrived during the same period last year,” said the survey.
The number during the third week registered over 37,321 tourists, an increase of 50.7 per cent.
“The visitors who came by air in the fourth week of the current season stood at 15,509, an increase of 21.5 per cent over 12,767 tourists of the same period in 2017,” said the survey.
The number of arrivals by domestic flights increased from 8,139 visitors in the third week to 10,568 visitors in the fourth week. The number of arrivals by international flights rose from 3,462 in the third week to 4,941 in the fourth week.
The statistics show that 76.2 per cent of tourists or 54,662 tourists, who came to Salalah during Khareef season in the fourth week, were residents of the Sultanate.

SAMUEL KUTTY