Makeover sought for tourism sector

Muscat: The hospitality sector needs a makeover to meet the challenges put by the Coronavirus pandemic.

In a meeting with Ahmed bin Nasser al Mahrazi, Minister of Tourism and Qais al Youssef, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), the representatives of leading travel, tourism and hospitality operators discussed the issues and proposed plans of recovery of the sector.

Among the proposals was the creation of a unified system through which travel and tourism companies can operate by forming a sub-committee from the Tourism Committee of the OCCI. This can help address the challenges in today’s economic environment.

“Travel and tourism, and hospitality companies are one of the pillars of the tourism sector. Without them we cannot provide integrated products for tourists,” said Nasser al Mahrazi, Minister of Tourism… We are studying various proposals to mitigate the effects caused by the pandemic.”

Among the proposals were organising work among travel and tourism companies and setting standards for competitiveness in the market.

They discussed the restructuring of loans for travel and tourism companies; paying financial dues to these companies by different authorities in the state; providing incentives by airlines and hotel establishments; exemption from the rents to the landlords during the COVID-19 period; providing an opportunity to these companies and tourist offices to recover the amounts of travel tickets that have not been used by customers due to the suspension of air traffic; making attractive tourism packages during the coming period, and promoting the Sultanate in the targeted markets to attract more tourists.

“It is of paramount importance to find solutions to get out of this crisis and deal with the expected impacts and grant incentives and facilities to the sector,” said Qais al Youssef, Chairman of the OCCI.

“These proposals will be recommended to the Supreme Committee. It is important in the coming period to know when the travel movement will open, for the companies to work on their plans and programmes. Support must come for the local travel and tourism companies in the Sultanate, “he said.

“Support from the state is very crucial, as it is one of the sectors affected at the global and local levels, in cooperation with the relevant authorities to and the wealth of tourism components it possesses,” representative of a leading travel conglomerate told the Observer.

PREVENTIVE MEASURES:
Meanwhile, the ministry has issued a guide of preventive measures for the travel and tourism offices as they were given nod to function.

The guidelines aim to provide personal protection for all workers in travel and tourism offices, tour operators, those engaged in tourist transport activities, tour guides, and tourist groups to follow a high level of precautionary measures against COVID-19.

The employers should train their staff in customer interaction procedures and the virus prevention mechanism, as well as physical spacing measures, and sustainable provision of hygiene, sterilisation, and personal protective equipment.

For hoteliers, a medical certificate should be requested from the guests before the arrival to avoid the use of paper documents, and ensure health insurance for all tourists before completing the reservation procedures. It is also recommended to organise trips in small groups not exceeding 15 people to facilitate social distancing, and the use of signs on-site to remind of precautions to be followed.