Oman eyes outbound Chinese tourists

Muscat, Nov 4 – The Ministry of Tourism (MoT) is keen to tap into a portion of the 135 million Chinese nationals who travel abroad as tourists and spend nearly $261 billion.
Currently, the foreign tourists to Oman are largely dominated by India, GCC, UK, Germany, France and Italy.
Speaking to the media on the sidelines of a forum, Salim Aday al Mamari, Director-General of Tourism Promotion, said that China has emerged as the “leading exporter of tourists” in the world and most of them are high-end tourists.
He said 16,500 Chinese tourists visited Oman in 2015 at a growth rate of 19.5 per cent. “We are not looking at the numbers right now, but a lot depends on how we promote Oman both as an experience and a destination in China. Chinese are very sensitive and they look for specialised services, namely guides who speak their language.
“We want to grow steadily and need to ensure all facilities are in place before we invite more tourists to Oman.
One mistake can spoil all our efforts,” said Mamari.
He said under the law, no country can be promoted in China without approval from the Chinese government. “But we have an MoU with China, which allows us to promote Oman in China.”
Oman plans to have a representative office in China next year. Mamari said air connectivity with China is not a problem.
Besides direct flights by Oman Air, other airlines in the region are also promoting Oman as a destination in China. He said the government is encouraging the development of three-to-four star hotels and hotel apartments in an effort to offer affordable stay options for both foreign and domestic tourists who prefer to travel in groups and families.
“Currently, we do not have enough hotel rooms in the country; pricing is directly related to supply and demand. Room rates will come down if there is more supply in the market.”
The ministry is expecting a growth rate of 9 to 10 per cent in 2018 despite the prevailing political turbulence and economic situation in the region.
Zhanlin Jin, deputy director, China Association of Travel Services, said as part of a new policy, a lot of Chinese tourists and businesses have been encouraged to visit and invest in Oman.
The MoT had organised a workshop on the sidelines of Omani-Chinese Tourism Companies Forum, which saw participation from 16 major travel and tourism Chinese firms as well as Omani companies in the tourism sector.
The forum was aimed at introducing the Sultanate as an ideal tourism destination and showcasing the efforts made by the MoT to promote Omani tourism products and services in the global markets.
Sayyid Adil al Busaidi, adviser on Tourism Affairs, MoT, said: “It is no secret that Oman has become one of the top tourist destinations in the world, enabling visitors to have new and unique experiences of adventure, camping, sea cruises, beach sports and more.
“Oman provides visitors and travellers with the best-in-class, authentic Arabian experiences, which is the essence of our National Strategy for Tourism.”
He added, “The ministry recently issued a circular to facilitate granting of unsponsored tourist visas to the nationals of a number of countries, including China.
Travellers who reside in or hold an entry visa to USA, Canada, Australia, the UK and Schengen States, can now obtain a non-sponsored tourist visa to Oman.”
He concluded, “It is our constant endeavour to continue to enhance our cooperation with China. I trust that this will result in strengthening mutually beneficial ties for our countries.”

Vinod Nair