Tourism is, I have no doubt, the avenue of ‘salvation’ in many respects, for the Sultanate that appears to have navigated its way through the troubled waters of sub sixty dollar per barrel, global oil prices.
From RO 894 million GDP in 2017, the 2018 figures will surely show that the magical billion rials target has been achieved, and from here on in, it is onwards and upwards. New hotel developments, demonstrating international confidence in the Omani tourism experience, are cropping up all over the Sultanate, though predominantly around the capital, and tour operators report good forward bookings for 2020.
Cultural tourism is still a major influence on tourists, especially from the European region, as people seek societies and cultural experiences vastly different from their own, while at the same time being in a less conflicted region. Certainly, the assurance of safety and security in Oman makes it a much more preferred destination than other continents. We can deal with that!
The sun and temperature aspect though, is for some tourists absolutely paramount, and they just want to come here, for a week or ten days, relax on a beach or by the pool, get a sun tan, and enjoy being pampered as they take stress-free time out from probably demanding and stressful jobs, and gloomy weather. We can deal with that too!
Activity tourism is the next big thing though, and whether it is cycling, climbing, swimming, diving, fishing, wadi bashing, camel and horse-riding, hiking, exploring, bungy jumping, zip-lining, skating, skiing, self-drive boating and sailing, kayaking, canoeing, nature trails, jet boating, rafting, bungy jumping, parasailing, paragliding, parachuting, quad biking, walking, bird-watching, and so much more. We can do all of that here! Well, nearly all!
And eco-tourism is the other avenue of exploration that is being identified globally, however while the Sultanate proves to be a fertile opportunity for eco-research, there is possibly insufficient direct application to eco-tourism
beyond the turtle sanctuary, dolphin watch, and whale watch activities already in place. However once again, it can be done here!
The only problem I see with tourism here is that to work, to really be a part of the national plan, it must be embraced by the population and the culture. I don’t mean that Omanis do not welcome tourism or tourists in fact Oman has long been recognised as one of the most welcoming destinations in the world. No. What I mean is that the concept of tourism must be embraced across the wider community and society.
At the moment Oman needs jobs for its nationals, and the tourism industry is creating jobs at the rate of something like 20,000 new jobs every year, but many are not taking these jobs, as many see it ‘culturally inappropriate’ to be involved in the industry, as it’s a service and hospitality industry, and some level of servility goes ‘part and parcel’ with providing tourism hospitality, and I don’t think that sits well with many sections of the community here.
I feel though, that while I am extremely respectful of the local culture, there are employment avenues within the industry that should be explored, and opportunities identified, pathways established, for young Omanis to retain all that is dignified and respectful in their society, while responding to their own need for employment, and their nation’s need for greater employment levels.
My two cents worth is this, why create 20,000 new jobs if at least 5,000 of them cannot be taken by young Omanis? Changing the thinking, the attitudes, doesn’t mean ‘reinventing the wheel,’ just seeing it from a different angle, and could open up a whole new raft of opportunities.