MUSCAT: Tourist arrivals in the Sultanate are all set to get a boost, especially from the GCC countries, with the introduction of new visa laws.
According to the new law, foreigners residing in the GCC countries with specific professions can now visit the Sultanate for tourism without a sponsor.
“Entry will not be denied to a foreigner on the condition that he/she has an employer, citizens of countries who are allowed to enter the Sultanate without a sponsor, in addition to other conditions prescribed for each type of visa,” said Brigadier-General Ahmed bin Sultan al Nabhani, Director-General of Passports and Residence.
He was referring to the new amendments made in the sponsorship rules for visiting the Sultanate.
The latest amendments include the addition of a 10-day tourist visa for a fee of RO 5, which can be extended for a similar period.
According to data from the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), visitors from the Gulf countries continue to form a majority of the people who came to the Sultanate in May this year.
Indian, British and Pakistani nationals stood second, third and fourth, forming 16.5 per cent, 5.4 per cent and four per cent, respectively.
Tourist arrivals to Oman are expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 13 per cent between 2018 and 2021.
According to Colliers International data, the rise will be fuelled by visitors from across the GCC, who accounted for 48 per cent of guests in 2017.
Giving more credibility to the prediction is the NCSI data that shows visitors from Gulf countries reached a mammoth 64,000, forming 38.7 per cent of the total number in May alone this year.
The five-year outlook for Oman’s tourism industry by Business Monitor International (BMI) is also very positive.
“We continue to forecast steady growth in international arrivals at a healthy pace up to 2022. Robust investments into the accommodations sector coupled with active marketing campaigns will provide the backdrop for a dynamic market,” BMI said in a report.
Positive momentum will be further bolstered by income growth in crucial source markets, rising demand for international travel and relaxed visa restrictions.
“We note that the market remains small by regional standards but contains significant untapped organic growth potential that is being unlocked as part of the government’s wider economic diversification strategy,” the report adds.
Figures from the NCSI show that the number of international flights at the Muscat International Airport increased by 4.9 per cent to reach 43,186 flights in the first five months of the current year.
The total number of international air passengers during the period reached 5.65 million.
These include the arrival of 2.84 million passengers, departure of 2.81 million and transit of 7,593.