Tourism in Oman… What is lacking?

Mahdia Ahmed Suliman al Balahsani

Oman attracts a large numbers of visitors every year as the government has a clear vision when it comes to developing the tourism sector around the country.
To support this vision, the Ministry of Tourism in 2003 was established in recognition of the prominent role it can have in the economic diversification process, apart from capitalizing on the remarkable heritage sites and the stunning natural beauty.
While the government encourages domestic tourism, people around the Sultanate from different communities feel that the sector in Oman is still not ready to visitors in big numbers with due to limitations in the availability of essential infrastructure, including public parks, toilets, hotels and parking sites.
In recent times, most of the Middle East and North African (MENA) countries have been focusing on the tourism sector to counter the impact of the dramatic fall in oil prices and the need to find other sources of income. As a result, the Omani government’s focus is on the importance of having a clear promotion strategy for tourism sites with adequate infrastructure.
Oman is one of countries that rely on oil income, nearly 60 to 70 per cent of total oil revenues from this sector. This prompted a newspaper to write a article, “The Budget of Sultanate of Oman in 2015 challenging the fall in Oil Prices.” From this viewpoint, it is important to discuss again about the importance of supporting the tourism sector, which great potential but missing on some key points.
Oman is characterized by different tourism destinations with multi-terrain and variation in climatic conditions. This makes more number of tourists who visit Oman comparable to the size of population of the Sultanate. The official statistics published by the Ministry of Tourism indicates that the number of tourists who visited the Sultanate actually over the past two years in 2016 and 2015 reached nearly two million visitors; this gives an indication that tourism can play an active and important role in the economic diversification policy.
While destinations are ready to receive tourists, however, unfortunately, we always find that there is a slow development in tourism sector in the country, especially with the facilities.
Like in most touristic destinations we find shortcomings in some facilities such as parking, restaurants and toilets.
Referring back to 2012, when the announcement of Matrah as a tourism city was initiated came without preparing enough parking slots to receive tourists that caused an exaggerated traffic jam in the area.
Tourism in Oman has joined the worldwide competition, as it is classified in rank twelve among fifty-two countries around the world according to the classification of the New York Times Magazine.
Therefore, we should always keep our ambitions without limits along with the rational thinking and planning. We are still aware that accessing the point of perfection is elusive, but we cannot put it as an excuse to stay behind. It is necessary to keep up with the pace of the global progress in this area. Otherwise, we would lose invaluable opportunities. Moreover, the political stability of the Sultanate during this period has to be optimally utilized in the interests of this area, because; unpretentiously, our country has become a model in many areas.
As a result, we must strive to fulfill this beautiful image and become a stunning tourist destination without any shortcomings.