Focus on sustainable tourism

Oman is a land of contrasts to the delight of tourists. From fjords of Musandam to Al Hajar Mountains, it takes you to the heart of the land, from the sands of Al Sharqiyah in the East to the vastness of the Empty Quarter, the green hills of Salalah drenched under the monsoon drizzle and to the beaches of the Sultanate outlining the country for more than 3,000 km, cradling some of the ancient cities like Muscat, Muttrah, Qalhat, Sur, Al Baleed and Mirbat.
Going up to the highest mountain in Oman, Jabal Shams, to camp and watch the splendour of night sky or watching the sunrise at Ras Al Jinz, the turtle sanctuary, it is Oman’s natural wonders that are the biggest tourist attraction.
The sea is a haven for nature enthusiasts and some of the attractions are diving, snorkelling, fishing, dolphin watching and show cruising. However, environmental protection has been given the highest priority protected by law even when tourism projects expand changing the landscape of many parts of the land.
Gulf nationals formed a mammoth 69.1 per cent of the total number of visitors to the Sultanate in July this year. This was followed by Indian, British and Pakistani nationalities who stood at second, third and fourth positions with 7.6 per cent, 2.7 per cent and 2.6 per cent, respectively, during the period. The winter tourism season is to begin.
Today, the Sultanate joins the world in celebrating World Tourism Day with the theme ‘Sustainable Tourism – a Tool for Development’. September 27 is the day on which statutes of World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) entered into force in 1970.
According to the Minister of Tourism, Ahmed bin Nasser al Mehrzi, the theme brings together various aspects of the tourism industry.
“By celebrating World Tourism Day, we aim to raise awareness on the importance of tourism and preservation of environmental and cultural components in order to foster and sustain the sector’s future development. This year’s theme ‘Sustainable Tourism – A Tool for Development’ encourages the development of tourism sector while taking into consideration the preservation of environmental and cultural aspects. That’s not all. It fosters the development of human resources, which is one of the most crucial factors in achieving sustainability.”
He elaborated: “The Ministry of Tourism is making tremendous efforts to enhance Oman’s tourism offering through the development of tourism activities and infrastructure. At the same time, we are keen on preserving our heritage and environmental, cultural and historic resources as well as our traditions and values. We are joining efforts with the private sector to achieve our goals and would like to express our gratitude and appreciation for all those working in the tourism sector, as well as our partners.”
To mark the day, the Ministry of Tourism’s ceremony will highlight the importance of the sector in the local communities bringing into focus the role of public and private sectors and SMEs through an exhibition.
The Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, Maitha bint Saif al Mahrouqi said, “On the occasion of World Tourism Day, we would like to thank the UNWTO for the continuous efforts it has made since inception to reinforce the role of tourism as a vital sector in economies throughout the world.”
She added, “The Ministry of Tourism has put into action a comprehensive study to evaluate tourism attractions, their demand, capacity, and has also included sustainable tourism aspects to ensure their upkeep. We are keen to attract international investors to the Sultanate and are continuously coordinating with the UNWTO to sustain the development of the tourism sector. We are also working with international environment experts and specialists to ensure the preservation of our environmental and cultural components. We would like to express our appreciation for those working in the tourism industry and wish them the best in their respective fields.”
The exhibition will give an idea on the key stakeholders of the tourism sector. National Youth Committee, universities and colleges, tourism companies, Omani Women’s Association, civil associations, SMEs, hotels, Injaz Oman, Oman Sail, Mwasalat, Omantel, Ooredoo, Husak Adventures, Bait Al Ghasham Museum are some of the participants.
The event will showcase products from the differently-abled fine-arts team of ‘Adati’ and the work of photographers in the tourism sector. The exhibition will also include the launch of a book, ‘Geological Tourism in Oman’, and a film by Sky Oman.
“Through this occasion, we aim to raise awareness on the importance of the tourism industry, its social and cultural values, as well as find solutions to overcome the challenges standing in the way of sustainability,” said Salim bin Adi al Mamari, Director-General for Tourism Promotion at the Ministry of Tourism.

Lakshmi Kothaneth