Charters are back in Salalah almost after a gap of two years. The first charter that landed in Salalah after Covid-19 took the world into its grip was from Slovakia on October 16. The hospitality and tour operators were the happiest to receive the first lot of 174 charter tourists at the Salalah Airport.
Since then, one charter has been coming every week from Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Mohammed Abdul Hakeem, Head of Operation Meeting Point, called it a moment of joy to see the tourists coming back to Salalah. The charter operation, according to him, is picking up slowly, with bookings done on a weekly basis.
Earlier, it was a different scenario. People had to plan at least six months in advance to get a slot in Salalah-bound charters.
“Still we are happy that from October 16 onwards charter tourists are coming from Slovakia and Czech Republic. Some 600-700 tourists have checked in, as we are expecting more during the season, which has just started,” said Abdul Hakeem.
Both the hotels and tour operators are expecting a boost in the charter movement this season due to successful Covid-19 vaccination globally and a very good vaccination percentage in the target group in Oman.
Meeting Point, which is doing ground handling agent of the charter operations, is taking care of all the pandemic protocols along with hotel partners.
Charters from Poland and France were the charters last seen in Salalah during the pre-pandemic days in the month of February 2020. They were the latest additions to the Salalah charter system besides regulars from Germany, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Italy.
Soon after the pandemic announcement in early 2020, the charter operation had to stop mid-way, and many guests had to reschedule arrival and departures.
Salalah has always been popular among European tourists due to its weather during the winter season. Tourists love to head to Salalah to beat the harsh winter in their countries.
More than 40,000 tourists stated to have arrived in Salalah during the 2019-2020 season. Operators had to wind up the 2020-2021 season in a huff due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The arrival of charters from Slovakia and the Czech Republic in the 2021-22 season has given the hospitality industry some hope of “something is better than nothing”, and they expect it to stabilise gradually.
A report published in the Observer suggested the arrival of 108 charters in the 2016-2017 season. They brought more than 28,000 tourists from Germany, Italy, Slovakia and Czech Republic. This is besides many other individual tourists from the same destinations, who decided to take their own flights and make independent tour schedules but depended on the tour operators’ ground services.