Post COVID-19, tourism may turn greener

Muscat: Tourism experts predict a bright future for the tourism and hospitality industry in the Sultanate despite the impact from COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Angelo Battaglia, Head of Tourism and Management Department, Oman Tourism College (OTC), is of the view that the most relevant tourism-economic assets and the cultural strengths will help the Sultanate to move towards a sustainable tourism future after the present crisis.

He told the Observer that he hopes the authorities involved are designing and implementing the right strategy for the industry through both the resilient dimension of its environments and communities and the capacity to face the current challenges with a green-oriented and durable approach.

“This kind of prospective emphasises the historic and cultural which identify the Sultanate as an international tourism hub, considered by UNESCO as a model in the region for its heritage,” he says.

He further says that the tourism sector in Oman is struggling as any other country where tourism generates revenue such as Italy, Spain, and France.

However, Dr Battaglia is sure the Sultanate will recover from the present crisis adopting and planning durable and effective tools for developing a new tourism scenario.

“Tourism, hospitality and leisure sectors will recuperate slowly next season, taking in consideration a more sustainable approach for its territories and its natural resources,” he adds.

Dr Manuela Gutberlet, PR Manager and independent tourism researcher at GUtech, hopes that governments will include more social and environmental aspects towards the quality life of the community in tourism policies, strategies, planning and tourism operations.

As Research Associate, University of Johannesburg, School of Tourism and Hospitality, College of Business and Economics, Dr Gutberlet who has been studying the impacts of mass cruise tourism in Oman hopes that this ‘spirit of solidarity’ that we have been experiencing throughout the past months, can be taken over within more responsible ways of travelling to other places.

Abdulaziz Rashid al Hasani, former Vice-Chairman of OCCI tourism committee, calls for a change in tourism strategy by tapping the local market. This may not be feasible at the moment as the local market is now weak and unstable due to repeated lockdowns.

He however foresees a bright future for desert camps and beach chalets. “Though there are no existing reservations from tourists for the season beginning from September we are hopeful at least by January things can improve,” he says.

Abdulaziz suggests changeover to mobile camping from desert to the beaches as local tourists prefer cooler areas. Requests have been made to the tourism ministry towards its approval, he says.

Dr Angelo also is of the firm view that the market will be vibrant by challenging three main categories of tourists’ namely regional tourists from Middle East and international tourists from selected European and Asian markets.

“This is considering strategically the cultural, historic and natural resources that we have in castles, forts, villages, farms embedded in a mosaic of micro-centralities and territorial systems which could represent the alternative dimension for the development of a sustainable tourism strategy in the Sultanate,” he adds.