The Sultanate of Oman is a vast country with linear geography spread across the Dhofar Governorate in the south and the Musandam Peninsula in the north.
While travelling from Salalah in the south to Muscat in the north takes around 1,200 km, travel from the capital to the other parts of the country also requires a minimum of three to four hours.
Not to forget that some of these motor rides are through the rugged mountains, barren lands, and aggressive sands that could virtually blow up in one’s face.
Such travels often require well-equipped and hygienic toilets, restaurants and even waiting rooms that offer protection from rain, wind and sun.
“The Sultanate of Oman has very natural tourist spots that require long hours of drive. But some of these routes do not offer adequate facilities such as waiting rooms, clean toilets, or even quality restaurants. I won’t say they are totally absent but are just not enough or efficiently maintained’’, said Salim al Balushi, a junior engineer who often travels to places such as Duqm, Sur and Adam among others.
“The government has been saying that all new fuel station complexes will offer essential services to motorists, which include international tourists. We see some of them on expressways leading to South and North Al Batinah, but we really need fully functional ones at all strategic places, if they have to enjoy this country to the fullest’’, said Gavin, a road travel enthusiast.
The competent authorities that include the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism (MHT), Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion (MoCIIP), Omran, and even the Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning have been working on several initiatives for years to address such issues.
Accordingly, the MoCIIP has issued some regulations and guidelines to ensure that the level of services provided to both domestic and international tourists and regular road motorists at fuel stations are of the highest levels.
The ministry indicated that this came to ensure compliance with the controls, the level of service provision, the provision of basic service requirements, the provision of the best services that reflect the economic and tourism status of the Sultanate of Oman, the commitment to the regulations and regulations issued for the establishment of fuel filling stations and attention to basic public utilities.
Fuel stations developed on highways and expressways should ensure that they have provisions for prayer halls (both men and women), toilets, a restaurant or café, shops, pharmacy, automated teller machines (ATMs), car wash, information desk, primary mechanical services, parking for cars and trucks, parking spaces for the disabled and establishment of rest houses and hotels.
Earlier speaking to the Observer, a senior executive of one of the leading fuel marketing companies told the Observer that in the coming years, the country would have mega fuel station complexes spread over a vast of land over the next couple of years. “The plan is not just to provide more than just fuel to the customers, but a chain of service facilities such as shopping, food, entertainment for children, postal services and even gyms. Some stations will be spread over 10,000 sqm of the plot.”
During a recent campaign that covered 334 fuel filling stations in various governorates, MoCIIP reported violations of 49 fuel stations for not providing basic services such as air filling machines for vehicles, unclean toilets, inadequate shopping stores and poor appearance.”