The coronavirus scare has its direct impact on tourism due to restricted movement of people and restrictions imposed by the authorities to check the spread of the deadly virus that has unique ways of being calm for some time and enormous again.
This is the second consecutive year for Salalah when there is no enthusiasm for the much-awaited Khareef (monsoon) season, which otherwise is a mood elevator, boost for businesses and full of cultural activities here and there. People are waiting for the virus to go and indulge in festivity with full enthusiasm.
With the onset of summer, the residents of Dhofar Governorate start preparing for the season with house renovations, preparations for small and big businesses etc. At the same time, it is a full-time job for the local authorities to manage the influx of tourists, maintenance of sites, roads and facilities, and many other unforeseen issues during the season.
All these activities are missing as there is no clarity as to how and when the sector will open for the tourists from outside or even for domestic tourists.
The hospitality operators are hoping against hope that the situation would improve in a couple of weeks, and the sector will open even in a limited and restricted manner.
“In the given situation, there is no concrete assurance from anywhere. The virus is very much there, a bit controlled due to the restrictions. So how can we expect that the tourists will be allowed to visit during the season,” said small businessman Abdulrahim.
Tackling the spread of the virus would always be a priority of the government.
“If we look at the calendar, only 21 days are left for the season to start. Keeping people healthy has always been the priority of the government, which is taking all possible measures from creating awareness to ensuring health and hygiene to every member of the society,” said a tourist operator.
People are missing the festivity but are realising the challenge which has come in the form of Coronavirus. The last Khareef festival was organised on a full scale in 2019.
Last season Salalah recorded 766,772 visitors, and the visitors’ spending reached RO 78 million, up 1.4 per cent compared to the 2018 season.
People are waiting for the return of the good times, as a section of them are yet to settle fully with the new normal of face masks, gloves, and even virtual meetings. They keep their fingers crossed and pinning hopes on the season, which has started giving signals of arrival with the building up of humidity and low clouds that pass by and drop a few drops of water off and on.