Promoting tourism in any country is mainly about integration of several civil and security organistions, a sector whose income increases if the relation between these parties are consolidated, and vice versa.
Perhaps, announcing liberal visa norms for many nationalities without a sponsor is one of the aspects that indicates that developing the sector is not the responsibility of a single authority.
Long ago tourism has been identified as a prospective sector which could contribute to the national economy.
The country, unlike many of its neighbours in the Arab region, has a rich and diverse geography, environment, natural resources, rich heritage and culture and has much to offer to a visitor to this country.
Recognising the right potential and streamlining it for sustainable development was the need of the hour and the Sultanate’s leadership has responded to this and established the Ministry of Tourism in June 2004.
Following this, an organisation Omran was established in 2005, dedicated for tourism infrastructure development and management.
In the past decade, the growth and development of the sector has been faster than anticipated in a country which has many social and cultural challenges to overcome. Oman today stands tall as a much sought-after destination by globetrotters. The sector is not developed to its fullest potential yet, and the country has a long way to go in terms of establishing a successful industry which could become a major contributor to the economy.
The authorities are evolving policies refocusing on the areas, according to the situation and adapting to the needs. Thus, there are constant efforts to evaluate projects being implemented and their impact on the environment and the society.
This constant monitoring and evaluation process is possible in a state with strict laws and measures in place.
Learning from the tourism industry around the globe, the Sultanate is able to implement the best practices while expanding its tourism sector.
The tourism market is continuing to undergo a change due to the continuous economic developments in many countries all over the world. For example people from countries like India, China and Russia are exploring tourism markets in the Far East as well as the Middle East where Dubai is a hotspot.
Therefore, facilitating the visa issue for these countries, overcoming the obstacle of having a sponsor and other hurdles will bring increasing number of tourists to the country.
We need to boost tourism by liberalising visa regime, but of course while adhering to all necessary security measures to assure that no dangerous elements enter the country.
It is not easy to increase the number of tourists, and an all-out effort should be made to integrate and lift the sector. It is fortunate that tourism infrastructure is being developed at a time when the country is preparing for a quantum leap in the field of tourism.
The opening of new Muscat International Airport is a case in point.
Many facilities in the sector are in final stages and more airlines have joined the race to tap the tourism share.
Moreover, the society is being prepared for inviting global tourists with additional new facilities.
Everyone agrees to the importance of giving a fillip to the tourism sector, taking advantage of natural and civil potentials, customs and traditions, and all other qualities that Oman has as an excellent tourist destination.
Of course, tourists need to be welcome to this ancient land in a professional way suitable to our values and traditions.
Whatever goes against our culture and customs would lead to opposition from our people, ruining all our efforts to tap this huge potential.
We acknowledge the fact that everyone is keen on the safety of our homeland from all aspects.
However, reality demands us to cope with the economic changes that are being imposed on us, like diversification of in income sources, expansion of non-oil sector, and be more open towards the world and deal positively with everyone.
Ali Al Matani