New airport, events to boost tourism

Vinod Nair –
Muscat, Feb 19 –

The opening of the new Muscat airport and improvement in the public transport infrastructure is expected to give a major boost to the tourism sector.
Officials in the tourism sector have been eyeing a double-digit growth in the next few years.
Already, the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) has a line-up of important conferences for this year, including the Pharmaceutical Care Conference, Muscat International Book Fair and Arab Spine Conference this month, Essence Oman in March, and Oman Real Estate Expo and the IRU World Congress 2018 in December.
The recently-concluded Royal Hospital’s international conference received 1,800 medical professionals and 230 speakers.
The World Exchange Congress will be held at the Bar al Jissah hotels on February 27 and 28, which will be attended by 70 chief executives from commodity and stock exchanges from across the world.
“Top-level business travellers do not spend much personally as all their expenses are met by the hosts. But they do help give a global boost to a country like Oman by often returning for holidays with families,” said a senior sales executive of a popular hotel chain.
Business travellers generally look for proximity to airports, availability of taxi services and supermarkets to meet the basic needs.
“The key to any business traveller is accessibility to the airport and standalone restaurants because restaurants at the hotel are too expensive,” said Ananth Kumar, who frequently travels as a representative of A General Sales Agent in the region. Operators of three-to-four star hotels in Oman feel the opening of the new airport, easing of visa rules and hosting of high-profile events, give them a major boost in the coming years.
“We should see the results of all new developments in the last quarter of 2018,” said the general manager of a regional hotel chain. The passenger traffic at Muscat airport has been growing at 16.5 per cent and Salalah, 34.3 per cent.
The occupancy rates at hotels were down at the end of November 2017 by 0.4 per cent compared with the same period in 2016, but analysts expect the trend to change in 2018.
The new Muscat airport terminal will help the national airline, Oman Air, add more long-haul flights and bring more transit and long-stay tourists into the country.