Sail along with a smile

Cruise tourism is gaining pace in the Sultanate. The growth in cruise tourism is a global trend. It’s obviously the value for money aspect that is responsible for the sector’s success. The diverse and rich travel experience offered by cruise tourism that includes multiple destinations, entertainment and body rejuvenation opportunities and outdoor activities is simply irresistible.
Which other tourism package offers sunbathing, swimming, shuffleboard and other outside activities and a deeply fulfilling cuisine as part of the travel itself? And what’s more, all this can be enjoyed together as a family.
A 2019 study on the economic impact of cruise tourism in Fiji by a consortium including Fijian and Australian governments throws up some interesting insights.
What is of significance is, however, not the direct $21.4 million and an indirect $22.7million contribution to its economy by the cruise tourism. The study found that 47 per cent of passengers could not find enough spending opportunities in the country. This unmet spending opportunities is something that every country focusing on developing its cruise tourism gains needs to focus on.
Another finding is that the more satisfied passengers are with the diversity of experiential options, the longer they will stay ashore and the higher will be the spending. Visitors are excited about indigenous arts and crafts, clothing, food and local destinations of heritage value; and this presents as a great economic opportunity for the local communities.
The Sultanate is one of the few countries that boast amazing growth potential for cruise tourism. The country has been witnessing consistent growth in port calls by cruise liners at its three fantastic ports.
During 2017-18, as many as 192 cruise ships visited the country’s tourist ports. While 112 docked at Port Sultan Qaboos, 36 called at the Port of Khasab and 44 at the Port of Salalah. This figure increased considerably during the 2018-19 tourism season, with a total of 298 cruise ships visiting the three ports. The future looks even brighter. The ministry is looking forward to an estimated 360 cruise ship visits during the 2019-20 season.
According to Oman’s Ministry of Tourism, cruise tourism has been playing a strong role in enhancing national economy, apart from offering a reliable lifeline to its tourism industry.
It is estimated that each cruise ship pays nearly RO 2,000 for the tourist services it receives. Specifically, each vessel pays RO 753 as port fee, and each passenger pays RO 6.
The number of cruise tourists to Oman last year is pegged at 193,467. Also, cruise tourism spending per day stands at about RO35. Significantly, Oman’s ports are well designed to host 400 to 600 tourists a day.
With multiple sectors benefiting directly and indirectly from cruise tourism, the stakes are high.
But is the Sultanate fully geared to exploit the full spectrum of spending opportunities the cruise passengers look at? With the government’s tourism strategy clearly focusing on this aspect, among other things, the tourists as well as the country stand to gain immensely.
At the same time, there are also concerns that cruise industry is partly responsible for over-tourism. With an estimated 30 million cruise passengers in 2019, as against 17.8 million a decade ago, stakeholders may not be able to ignore cruise tourism’s negative impacts on destinations. This is something the Sultanate also is concerned with.