Non-oil economy: Tourism is crucial to growth

By Bilal Hussain — As the Sultanate of Oman is diversifying its economic basket, tourism can play a pivotal role to boost non-oil revenue for the country. In this context, the efforts by Ministry of Tourism are laudable to a greater extent especially in the present testing times of plunging oil prices. However, the ministry has a long way to go to make Oman a preferred destination in the Middle East. There is a decrease of 10.5 per cent in the revenues of 3-5 stars hotel till October 2016 at RO 16.7 million compared to RO 18.7 million in October 2015.
Latest figures released by the National Centre for Statistics and Information reveals that 2.5 million visitors arrived in the Sultanate till October 2016. Indian, British and Philippine nationalities came at the second, third and fourth place consecutively where they formed 11.2 per cent, 7.2 per cent and 5.1 per cent.
However, double the number at 4.9 million visitors departed the Sultanate in the same period. The Gulf visitors come at the first place, where their number reached 74,000 visitors forming 38.3 per cent during October 2016.
The Omanis departure constitute 65.3 per cent out of the total visitors departing the Sultanate during October 2016.
The importance of the tourism sector at global level can be gauged through a report by World Tourism Organization. According to the organisation, the tourism sector promotes inclusive and sustainable economic growth by 4 per cent annual increase in international tourist arrivals since 2009, 7 per cent of total world exports and 30 per cent of world services exports, $1.5 trillion in exports from international tourism in 2015 and 10 per cent of world GDP.
The Oman’s Ministry of Tourism is globally marketing the country as a destination for cultural, heritage, natural and adventure  tourism.
However, the marketing needs to be aligned with the global trends, like the United Nations 70th General Assembly has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
It is aimed to support a change in policies, business practices and consumer behaviour towards a more sustainable tourism sector that can contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Ministry of Tourism has to tune in their marketing strategy in accordance to these developments to reap benefits internationally.
According to a report by World Tourism Organization, leisure, recreation and holidays constitute 53 per cent of the global inbound tourism followed by health and religion at 27 per cent; while business and professional purposes constitute 14 per cent. The Ministry of Tourism has to closely monitor these purposes of tourism and tailor their plan to grab the maximum benefits.
The tourism sector has a tremendous potential given the size, location and natural beauty of the country.
The Sultanate of Oman has an area of 309,500 sq kms having coastal length of 3,165 kms and highest mountain peak of 10,000 ft: Jebel Shams.
The Nakhl Fort, Royal Opera House Muscat, AlKasfah Spring, Bandar Khayran Reserve, Jebel Shams (Sun Mountain), Sea Road and Turtle Reserve are some of the tourist attractions that needs to be marketed at international forms to attract global tourists and should be developed to cater to international tourists.
While focusing on tourism development project a proper implementation of  Development Control Plan Framework (DCPF) which was prepared by the Ministry of Tourism in coordination with the Ministry of Housing, Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, Muscat Municipality and Supreme Committee for Town Planning should be followed for sustainable development of tourism projects.