The decision from both State Council and Majlis Ash’shura aimed at encouraging Omanis owning old heritage houses to be converted into hotels and restaurants will be a big boost to the country’s tourism drive. Oman receives an average of about 2.5 million tourists every year. The growth has not been encouraging in the last five years.
Actually, official statistics show that there has been an increase of only an average of 3.8 per cent since 2013.
The most attractions for tourists in Oman are the desert areas, diving, snorkeling, para sailing, trekking, mountain climbing and wadi camping. However, most of the tourists land straight at Muscat International Airport right in the capital city.
The attraction in Muscat is mainly the Muttrah Souq and the beaches. From Muscat, they have to travel by roads or connect by regional airports to go to Salalah, which is the second most visited city.
Although Oman has two other airports, but only a small percentage of tourists fly to Suhar and Duqm.
Again, apart from the Khareef season, an event that happens in Salalah, most tourists use the road network to go to various beauty spots. Over the years, investors concentrated mainly on building 4 and 5 star hotels to cater for the wealthy tourists.
The hospitality sector has largely ignored the establishment of economical hotels. The statistics in the Gulf countries shows that over 65 per cent of tourists come to GCC countries are economical tourists.
They spend an average of $2,000 during their stay, which is about 5 days. A 5-star hotel in Oman costs an average $300 per night.
In other words, the majority of tourists flying to the region look for budget hotels, not for upmarket accommodations.
The State Council and Majlis Ash’shura’s decision to allow owners of old historical houses to be converted into hotels would open up a new market.
Most of these heritage houses are outside Muscat, where most tourists like to visit. The beauty spots in towns like Musandam, Nizwa, Thamrait, Rimal Al Sharqiya and old picturesque villages like Wadi Bani Khalid, do not really have hotels that cater for their needs. Many of the historical houses are crumbling down because owners have no money to pay for their costly maintenance.
It is not only translated into personal losses but Oman is losing its heritage when these properties fall on the ground just because owners cannot afford to keep them in shape.
But with the encouragement from the two legislative houses to allow historical homes to be turned into hotels or restaurants, then Oman will preserve its culture as well as open up new revenues to struggling families.
It will also work out well for tourists. They will not have to splash out excessive money for 5-star hotels. Another advantage is that tourists are looking for attractions that they do not find in another countries and that’s why they come to Oman.
Staying in a typical heritage home will be a perfect holiday for them.
They will stay in areas of attractions and walk in old streets and admire the Omani culture and history without having to travel a long distance.
It would also boost the number of tourists in the country. Furthermore, it will encourage more Omanis living in Muscat to go back in their hometowns to start new businesses once they know they can turn their ancestry homes into hotels or restaurants.
However, the government need to do more than just give business licenses to ancestry homes. There should be a special fund to help potential hoteliers in this category of tourism to help them repair the old houses.
They would need the money for the business capital, too. But if this business is better regulated and encouraged, it would pave the way for new incomes for many Omanis.
It will also certainly boost tourism and improve the country’s ranking as a favourite destination.