Pandemic hits Oman business travel, holidays

Travel agencies in the Sultanate have reported a dramatic decline in outbound business travel and inbound leisure holidays stemming from the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) pandemic.
Business travel is down almost 50 per cent (over corresponding trends in 2019) since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak to be a global public health emergency, said a Muscat-based travel executive.
“We are seeing official delegations and business travellers curtailing their travel plans in the wake of the WHO declaration,” the executive, representing a leading travel operator in the Sultanate, told the Observer. “Official events and business meetings scheduled in the United States and Switzerland, among other destinations around the world, have been cancelled or put off. This is hurting our business.”
The slump in outbound business and inbound holiday travel only worsens a spate of cancellations that was sparked by the recent crisis in the Arabian Gulf following the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger liner, said the travel industry executive.
“Flight cancellations began in late December, when tensions first erupted in the Gulf. Many countries issued advisories urging their nationals to avoid this region while some airlines began avoiding overflights — measures that began having a severe impact on our business.”
The 2019-nCoV pandemic is also taking a toll on the local hospitality sector as well.
“The recent crisis in the Gulf, combined with the coronavirus scare, has resulted in 30-40 per cent cancellations in hotel booking during January and February this year, which is a typically the high season for our industry. Several of these cancellations involve high-end bookings,” an official representing a prominent travel operator noted.
The virus has so far claimed over 300 lives, predominantly in China, while some 14,380 people have been sickened globally.