Monday, June 05, 2023 | Dhu al-Qaadah 15, 1444 H
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Taking tourism reporting seriously

Internal tourism was practically non-existent, except for people travelling to the capital Muscat or visiting Salalah during the khareef season. The latter has always been a must during the summer months

The year was 2010, journalism students were having lessons on tourism reporting. It was something new to the local journos. Today, 12 years later, many of them occupy prominent jobs within the media and other related fields.

Classes developed from the technicalities of reporting to colloquial talks about the potential of the leisure industry. The country’s unique landscape and its geographic location between Europe and Asia turned into themes about the world map and the different cultures.

While clearing stacks of teaching material and students’ work from my cabinets, I came across a variety of interviews given to journos; note-taking practices during press conferences, and loads of photos and videos, which in my view, register some of the big changes in journalism reporting in the country.

A throwback, and a thought-provoking interview on tourism given to a journo in 2010, that I found among the papers, still echoes today. Extracts have focused on some fundamental actions such as better infrastructure, public transport, local workforce training in tourism and hospitality, and the ability to communicate in different languages.

In that 2010 interview, it said: “... Several areas, particularly in infrastructure, need to be taken care of to develop the tourism sector. For example, public transport has to be improved. There is a need to promote stronger measures for road safety. There is also a need for medical facilities with trained staff who can speak English or other languages.”

The interview continued: “One critical point is the need for public toilets in service and resting facilities, and these toilets should be supervised and cleaned.”

The lack of budget accommodation has also been pointed out. “There is a good number of classy and pricey hotels, but there are not many affordable accommodations around the country.”

Another suggestion that has been offered was for road shows, exhibitions, and conferences to be organised – which are well established nowadays. It said: “Fairs, exhibitions, and conferences are a good approach to attracting visitors. Besides, the professionals attending these events could be encouraged to visit parts of the country.” A call for transnational budget airlines to fly into the country has also been mentioned.

The influx of international companies to Suhar was an attractive fact because then, tourism, business, and economic development could be combined. Students would be interviewing foreigners, attending business events, and press conferences, and would be writing pieces for the local newspapers - and so, they did.

In the early 2000s, for foreigners living and working in the country, short trips and sightseeing travels were about camping, wadi bashing, picnics, and desert driving. It was about discovering the most amazing and picturesque places, meeting the friendly local people in the villages, coming across rich archaeological sites, and learning about the country’s history.

Internal tourism was practically non-existent, except for people travelling to the capital Muscat or visiting Salalah during the khareef season. The latter has always been a must during the summer months. Then, again, equally, for domestic, and inbound tourism, infrastructure and facilities needed to be available and cared for.

The spectacular pristine beaches, mountains, and valleys were – and still are - just perfect. If one is into eco-tourism, Oman is the place. So, monetising the country’s natural beauty has been a natural step ahead.

It is inspiring to see former journos involved in the business of hospitality, sports, and environmental activities. Tourism journalism is not as trivial as it may look at first. It has many ramifications. Glad this old interview continues relevant after so many years.

As the travel industry continues to grow and diversify, tourism journalism requires more attention. Its relationships with cultural services, consumerism, entertainment, and practical information, can be constructive to suit different visitor needs and desires.

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