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MoHERI-funded study to strategize growth in tourist arrivals from India

Tourism - Alila Hotel Jabal Akhdar
Tourism - Alila Hotel Jabal Akhdar

Key goal: Year-long research project of Sohar University aims to contribute to a robust and effective positioning of the Sultanate of Oman as an attractive destination for Indian holidaymakers.

A research study that seeks to explore the potential for ramped-up tourist inflows from India has commenced at Sohar University with funding support from the Omani Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MoHERI).

Titled, ‘Identifying Alternate Business Models and Market Positioning Strategies for Sustainable Tourism to realize and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),’ the year-long study aims to contribute to a robust and effective positioning of the Sultanate of Oman as an attractive destination for Indian holidaymakers.

According to Sohar University’s Dr Shweta Belwal, Principal Investigator, the research project ultimately aims to support the Sultanate of Oman’s ambitions to enhance to tourism sector’s long-term contribution to employment generation and economic development.

“The Sultanate of Oman aims to attract more than 11 million international and local tourists by 2040, boosting manufacturing to meet the growing tourism industry by joint mechanisms for destination branding and tourism management. This research, focusing on India as the major source of inbound tourists, will engage multiple stakeholders such as past travelers from India to Oman, tourism authorities, travel agencies, and regulatory authorities in Oman for gaining their perspectives to develop business models and market positioning strategies,” she noted.

Assisting Dr Belwal in the research study are Prof Rakesh Belwal (Co-Principal Investigator), and Dr Zoe Morgan and Latifa al Badi (both co-investigators) of Sohar University.

The research team points out that India is among a grouping of select target markets that the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism banks on to boost international tourism inflows into Oman. The others in this category include Germany, France and the United Kingdom internationally, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia regionally.

“Having a population of more than 1.35 billion, India certainly emerges as one of the most potent sources of tourists for Oman, where a careful targeting and positioning of prospects can achieve Oman’s targets for sustainable tourism realistically,” the Principal Investigator said.

To this end, the research team plans to assess, among other things, the value proposition offered by Oman as a holiday destination for tourists from India specifically among five target traveler profiles: millennials, vacationists, sophisticated travellers, discerning travellers and special interest travellers. It will also seek to identify the specific needs of Indian tourists across these five profiles, for example, with regard to Omani tourist offerings.

A key objective is to produce an “exceptional menu of unique tourism experiences and positive emotions” with the goal of proposing suitable market positioning strategies, she further explained.

To garner a broad cross-section of perspectives and inputs for the project, the research team plans to engage with stakeholders across the ecosystem, including past travellers from India, tourism authorities, travel agencies and regulatory bodies – to help with the development of business models and market positioning strategies.

India’s geographical and cultural proximity to the Sultanate of Oman makes it stand out among the many target markets that the country has identified, according to Dr Belwal. In 2018, tourist traffic from India grew 12.37 per cent to around 357K travellers, up from 318K in 2017, making India the second-highest source market for the Sultanate that year. This uptick was primarily attributable not so much to any market positioning, but to initiatives such as electronic visas, direct flight connectivity with key Indian cities and the opening of the new Muscat International Airport, she noted.

“India with a population of 1.3 billion is one of the top global tourist producers. Given its proximity and cultural familiarity with Oman, it offers good potential for boosting inbound tourism in Oman. In 2018, India stood 11th globally in departures (26.3 million) and 14th in expenditure in USD terms in the UNWTO rankings and was placed among the top 15 tourist generating countries (UNWTO online dashboard, 2020). A well-planned destination marketing of Oman could help in generating a regular pool of inbound tourists from India,” the Principal Investigator added.

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