Need to equip tourism spots with more facilities

MUSCAT, June 16 –

Although domestic tourism has been high on the agenda of the authorities in Oman, many tourist hotspots are bereft of enough facilities for tourists.
Multitudes of visitors — both indigenous and alien — converge at Oman’s splendid natural attractions in the interior areas to spend their holidays.
But most of these destinations are not suitably equipped to handle the large swarms of tourists as they lack adequate basic facilities like rest areas, shops, washrooms, toilets and others.
“Oman, with its breathtaking interior regions, has much to offer to the visitors. If the authorities offer enough facilities, they will aid those tourists who belong to the hop-on hop-off category. This, on the other hand, will boost the state coffers,” said Suleiman al Lawati, an executive with a travel agency.
Omran, the tourism development and investment arm of Oman’s tourism ministry, a few years back had initiated a ‘Rest Areas Project’ to create a nationwide network of rest areas along the country’s highways.
According to National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), between 2005 and 2016, domestic tourists have more than tripled.
“The number of inbound tourists visiting the Sultanate has grown by around 40 per cent every half decade,” points out an NCSI report.
While the total number of visitors reached 1.1 million in 2005, it jumped to 1.5 million in 2010 and 3.2 million in 2016. Since 2005, the total number of inbound tourists has been growing at 10.03 per cent annually.
According to experts, the fact is that compared with other
countries in the region or elsewhere, popular attractions like Wadi Bani Khalid, Wadi Bani Kharous, Al Khalidiya, Al Baleed and Nakhl have not been provided with facilities or given the attention these destinations deserve.
“Visitors always look for hotel facilities when they select a destination to spend the holidays. In Oman outside the capital, we have to choose between expensive five-star hotels and the very basic ones, but there doesn’t seem to be much in between. This gap is to be filled,” said Albert George, a travel specialist.
Even for local visitors, who spend their weekends and public holidays at the tourist spots with their families have to carry food and other essentials all the way from their homes.
“This not only reduces the number of people visiting Oman’s plentiful natural and historic attractions during public holidays and other occasions, but also deprive government of the economic benefits,” he said.
Although comfort stations and small cafeterias are in existence at these places, they are not enough to cater to the larger turnout of people at these places.
Experts also feel that focus should be on theme-based entertainment options to attract tourists.
“Summer tourism can be made attractive through special hotel and flight rates. Lots of indoor recreational facilities like theme parks have a lot of potential to encourage more people to visit Oman,” said Anand Raj, an executive with a leading hotel in Muscat.
The Ministry of Tourism last month launched the 2018 summer campaign under the theme ‘Discover Beauty of Oman’ with 51 hotels taking part.
The campaign, launched on May 21, will last for three months. It focuses on moderate temperature zones in many locations such as Jabal Shams, Al Jabal Al Akhdhar, Al Ashkhara Beach and a number of villages and valleys as well as the beaches stretching across Al Wusta Governorate.
Saleh bin Ali al Khayfi, Director of Tourism Promotion and Marketing Department in the ministry, said the campaign aims primarily at activating domestic tourism movement and attracting visitors from GCC as well as residents, in addition to highlighting the tourist sites that can be visited during summer.