For four days, about 20 guests, all working in the luxury travel and hospitality industry from around the world, went on an in-depth exploration of Oman. They were taken across Oman's sprawling cities, towards rugged mountains and deeper into the heart of Oman's wadis and deserts to see what the country is all about.
They were made to experience culture — from the traditional dances seen over the weekend showcased at the Nizwa Fort Festival and the Gulf Ceramics Festival at the Jabreen Castle — to some of the most beautiful historic destinations which include Al Hamra, Misfat Al Abriyeen and Bahla and had an opportunity to interact not only with the women of the living museum of Bait al Safah but including the usually aloft Bedus of Sharqiyah.
The participants, many of them admitting they hadn't been to Oman at all, were curious how Oman can be packaged as a luxury destination and had closely inspected not just hotel facilities but on-ground services provided by travel operators.
The whole event is part of the Global Travel Week Middle East powered by Connections Luxury and organised by the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism in collaboration with serial entrepreneur Clive Jacobs who is the chairman of Connection and is currently under the helm of Gregory Reeves, its managing director.
The four-day tour was eventually followed by a series of talks, soirees and networking hosted by some of Oman's luxury hotels including Shangri-La Barr al Jissah and Al Husn, W Muscat and Al Bustan Palace.
Regarding how Oman was selected, Clive Jacobs, who also owns Jacobs Media and Connecting Travel, shared that "We look for the right type of host. There has to be a need. Oman is better suited for this type of event as Oman hasn't reached peak tourism yet. There is a need and a synergy. We have a proven model which works [and bring the right travellers to hosting countries.]"
Jacobs also revealed that Connections which manages the Global Travel Week Middle East will also be held in Oman for two more years guaranteeing that the country will also benefit from the insight of the group as well as the partners who can sell the property to luxury-seeking travellers all over the world.
Meanwhile, Greg explained, "Oman bringing this event to the country is a commitment to its tourism efforts, a desire to educate the private sector and themselves on the expectations luxury travel trade. Luxury travellers have very demanding needs so bringing this event here is actually bringing valuable insights on how to handle these expectations better."
He added, "This [Oman] adventure destination is a rugged destination and that's part of the charm. Of course, there's room for refinement but that's why we are here to help everyone better improve and better serve the clients."
Reeves went on, "When running an initiative, you have to look at the return of investment but you also have the tangible and intangible ROI. Tangible ROI is the money but it was actually the ministry [of Heritage and Tourism] who said that you also have to look at the intangible ROI. There needs a huge education piece that needs to happen in the country and it's good to see this because not all destinations think this way."
The travel week event wrapped on March 29 with many of the participants sharing that they found Oman a revelation as a destination and definitely worth checking out.
Jeroen Adriaenssens who owns Masters in Travel based in Belgium said that he enjoyed nearly all of the activities but what stood out to him the most is not just the desert adventure where they were hosted by the Thousand Nights Camp but also the more intimate experiences like the women of Bait al Safah showcasing how coffee and Omani bread are made.
His key takeaway however is that the wadis were astounding and will definitely be a great selling point to his clients who are also big in outdoor adventure.
Is Oman ready for luxury travel tourism to come back? With nearly 200 luxury travel specialists leaving Oman happy with their experiences and with the renewed interest in this side of the Middle East, surely the country will soon see a flow of visitors just wanting to #ExperienceOman.