Over 65,000 tourists expected from China, Iran, Russia

Muscat: The sultanate aims to receive 65,129 tourists from China, Russia and Iran in 2018, according to official sources, with noticeable progress made in visa facilitation process.

“The initiative aims to ease the visa applications process for the emerging tourist markets such as China, Iran and Russia. It also focuses on activating an e-visa system and thereby increasing the number of users of the e-visa system. This move will help improve Oman’s rank in the Openness index,” said the annual report of the Implementation Support & Follow-up Unit (ISFU)

One of the main objectives of this initiative is to create new tourist visa facilitation for tourists from emerging markets e.g. China, Russia and Iran.

In 2017, the initiative target was to attract 43,419 tourists from China, Russia and Iran to visit Oman using the new visa facilitation. It also sought the number of e-visa users to touch 12,548 in 2017.

The initiative working group, with the help of ISFU has provided great support to achieve the target set for 2017. In April 2017, during the Second Tourism Forum, Royal Oman Police(ROP) in coordination with the Ministry of Tourism announced new visa facilitation for China, Russia and Iran nationals.

As per the new rule, travel agencies and above three-star hotels in Oman can obtain a licence directly from ROP to bring tourists with sponsored visas. During the same forum, ROP announced the e-visa system.

The initiative working group conducted a survey among stakeholders to evaluate the awareness of the new visa facilitation. They received encouraging results as the majority of the stakeholders
were aware of the new visa facilitation. The working group with the attendance of ROP officials held meetings with tour and travel agencies to find solutions to issues faced in tourism markets.

Recently, new visa procedures were also provided by ROP for 28 countries from List B (including China, Russia and Iran). Visa applicants from the 28 listed countries interested in travelling to Oman must have a passport valid for six months at least and applicants must also have a valid visa to the US, Canada, Australia, the UK or Schengen countries at the time of application.

The working group worked closely with ROP to obtain figures on the number of e-visa users. As of October 2017, 10,000 users had used the e-visa facility. It the working group also communicated with the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) to obtain updated statistics on the number of tourists from the new markets (China, Russia and Iran) using the new facilitations. As of September 2017, the number of visitors from these markets had reached 39,472.

Around 45,947 electronic visas were issued during the period from March 21 2018 to April 16 as part of the initiatives of the government to simply visa procedures for tourists arriving to the sultanate.