Promoting Salalah as a world-class tourist destination

BADER AL KIYUMI – baderalkiyumi@hotmail.com – No doubt, Salalah is considered one of the best destinations in the Arabian Peninsula. The capital city of southern Oman’s Dhofar Governorate, is more popular during the Khareef or the monsoon season and the best place to explore during this part of the year.

Sitting on long sandy beaches fringed with coconut trees, the city and the surrounding regions of the governorate offers remarkable contrast to the rest of the country.
Visitors can witness the transformation of the desert terrain into a lush, green landscape creating the more popular seasonal waterfalls.
Large number of visitors make a beeline to the city during the season each year. Omani families and those from the Gulf region prefer to spend their summer holidays with the nature and away from the high temperature which affect the region during the summer.
During my recent visit to Salalah, I was very much impressed with the facilities and services offered to the tourists compared to my previous visit.
At present, we can say the city’s infrastructure presents a totally changed picture with the best of telecommunication networks, roads and luxury apartments.
Moreover, most of the places have mobile toilets which should serve as a boon to the innumerable tourists who flock the place during the season.
There is plenty which the Governorate of Dhofar showcases for the tourists, not just the city’s new shopping malls.
The governorate, with its greenery and beaches, can become a major competitor for the many other countries which rely on tourism as a source of income.
However, as compared with my previous visit, what I saw in Salalah surprised me no end. An important aspect worth-noting is that visitors were mostly from the Sultanate or other Gulf countries as there was a shortage of visitors from the rest of the Middle East and European countries.
The Sultanate Tourism Representative Offices abroad must play a vital role to promote the city. It will be good to expect more tourists from among these regions. Authorities also can cooperate with travel agencies to offer concrete tourism packages.
According to data from the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), the number of visitors touched 526,874 till August 15. When compared to the same period in 2016, the tourists number this year has come down. Also, the NCSI reveals that around 91 per cent of this number were Omanis and from among the Gulf countries. Around, 28,000 came from Asia and the majority are living in Oman. Based on the above figures, we notice that there is a shortage number of Arabs and European visitors to Salalah.
A full package worth considering which must be offered for the tourists are spots like Al Mughsail Beach, Sultan Qaboos Mosque, Marneef Cave, Sumhuram Old City, Museum of the Frankincense Land, Taqah Castle, NabiAyoub’s Tomb, Frankincense Trail and many others.
The concerned authorities have worked hard during the last years to develop the city especially the accommodation facilities in Salalah. They encourage investors to build more luxury flats but care must be taken towards preserving the old traditional aesthetic looks of the city.
However, it is expected that concerted efforts will come from the concerned departments to promote the city at global levels. Though many airlines have increased the frequency of flights to Salalah from Oman and from other hubs, still more needs to be done.
The Salalah Festival also needs more improvement since most of its events are the same like the previous years.
Primarily, the authorities must consider distributing the land away from the plains and the green mountains. This is one of my suggestions to the authorities as I noticed that some of the areas, mainly in Ittin and Sahanout plains, are occupied by modern urban crawls (houses).
To conclude, Salalah with its beautiful mountains can attract more tourists because citizens and tourists want to see natural places. I also read a report which mentions that most of Omanis this year visited newer tourist destinations like Georgia and Azerbaijan when compared to Thailand or Malaysia since they (tourists) look for natural spots.
Due appreciation are to the Ministry of Tourism towards its efforts to promote the city in the best possible manner. Arab families from across the region must picnic in paradise in larger numbers and experience the oasis of misty pastures.