MUSCAT: Ahead of the World Tourism Day, which falls on Thursday, the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) has indicated the Sultanate’s tourism sector has performed exceedingly well in the last five years. The number of visitors to Oman, for instance, nearly doubled in the last five years (2013 to 2017), while the percentage of visitors per day rose 1.6 per cent to 885,810 in 2017 compared with 2016, according to NCSI. Inbound tourism expenditure touched RO 342.3 million in 2017, a 6.1 per cent rise over 2016 (RO 322.5 million), with the average expenditure per visitor reaching RO 105.1. As per the NCSI bulletin, this is a significant 4.5 per cent increase compared with 2016, when the total expenditure per visitor totalled RO 100.6. Accommodation services accounted for 34 per cent of inbound tourism expenditure, followed by air transport services (27.5 per cent), food and beverages services (15.1 per cent) and shopping (11.4 per cent).
Outbound tourism rose by 48.1 per cent between 2013 and 2017, totalling 6.4 million. The total outbound tourism expenditure reached RO 462.7 million in 2017, a 5.6 per cent decrease over 2016 (RO 490.3 million). In 2017, total tourism revenue totalled RO 1.25 billion, of which RO 342.3 million (27.4 per cent) came from inbound tourists. The remaining RO 909.1 million (72.6 per cent) came from domestic tourism. This figure includes receipts from the national carrier, Oman Air, and travel agencies. In 2017, the total number of hotels reached 359, comprising 17 five-star hotels, 24 four-star hotels, 26 three-star hotels, 49 two-star hotels and 243 units classified as others, which includes one-star hotels, unclassified hotels, guesthouses and hotel apartments.
Since 2013, the number of five-star hotels has increased from 12 to 17, while the number of four-star hotels grew from 22 to 24. The number of three-star hotels dropped from 28 to 26 and the number of two-star hotels from 52 to 49. Other accommodations increased from 152 to 243.
The total revenue generated from hotel activity reached RO 236.0 million, with a 2.5 per cent growth in 2017. The hotel occupancy rates in Muscat Governorate have dipped from 61 per cent in 2013 to 55.3 per cent in 2017.
The total number of visitors during Salalah Tourism season reached 645,000 in 2017, a 1.2 per cent decrease compared with 2016, which saw 653,000 visitors.
However, there was a 26.8 per cent jump in the total number of visitors between 2015 and 2016 from 515,000 to 653,000. Out of the total number of visitors in 2017, 71.1 per cent were Omani and 8.9 per cent from the UAE.
The number of visitors from the GCC increased 2.9 per cent in 2017 compared with a high growth of 40.4 per cent in 2016. The number of visitors from Kuwait decreased by 15.1 per cent in 2017, while those from Saudi Arabia increased by 23.9 per cent.
The Ministry of Tourism has also developed of many social networking platforms to promote a tool to raise awareness on sustainable tourism and interaction with the pioneers of media social networking against practices and misconceptions that are harmful to biodiversity and natural resources.
The website of the Ministry of Tourism is comprehensive and responsive to all tourist requirements in all its destinations. It will also provide facilities and services to companies to contribute to meet their aspirations, stressing that the process of the development of modern technologies will continue to invest better plans and programmes.
Ministry of Tourism has signed a strategic partnership agreement with Omantel on the infrastructure for the telecommunications sector and information services and broadband services for mobile Internet and value-added services technology.
The agreement comes within the framework of strengthening cooperation between the public and private sector to support the tourism strategy.
The agreement is an important one for the tourism sector as it will provide solutions with the introduction of modern technology, which is one of the fundamentals for competitiveness in the tourism sector. The agreement will open the door to provide many services for tourists visiting the Sultanate.
Through the strategic partnership with Omantel, free wi-fi service will be installed in 5 castles developed by the Ministry. It will hopefully include 35 castle fortresses. This application is designed with characteristics and features that will attract tourists.