Muscat, July 19 – Salalah, ranked one of the best tourist attractions in the region, has been called ‘Amsterdam of the Middle East’ by the international media. The number of visitors to Salalah during the first four weeks of Khareef ‘Monsoon Season’ that began on June 21 saw a decline of 26.7 per cent compared with the same period in 2016. The total number of visitors fell to 41,152 in the fourth week compared to 55,612 during the same period last year.
Some attribute it to the soaring room rents. “With hotels raising tariff several times, thousands of rooms remained vacant, according to Muzafir, who runs a business in Salalah.
“Hoteliers hiked rents owing to high demand last year. I feel this has impacted the demand.”
Nevertheless, the number of hotel rooms and other infrastructure has increased manifold compared with the situation five years ago, says Muzafir.
Abdul Basheer, who runs a hotel near Prophet Ayoub’s tomb, while agreeing the number of visitors has fallen this year, he is optimistic “things will improve by the end of this month”.
“We receive hundreds of GCC nationals during the Salalah Tourism Festival every year but there has been a decline this year. I feel it’s because people are yet to receive their salaries.”
He, however, said Salalah was preparing to receive more tourists by this month-end.
Dhofari people and traders, in particular, other stakeholders in the tourism festival are positive they would see more visitors in the next few weeks.
“There are signs of improvement; it will improve further. Tourism contributes a major chunk to Oman’s economy, with Salalah being a pivotal force behind it. It’s just a matter of time,” says Vijay Kumar Handa, Cluster General Manager, Ras al Jinz Turtle Reserve, Masirah Island Resort, City Hotel Duqm and Uwaifiyah Rest House. “The focus of the Ministry of Tourism and Omran is on the big picture as they are open to trying out innovative ideas. They are going all-out to bring in more tourists. The new online visa facility is a remarkable step in that direction,” said Handa.
The number of Omanis who visited Salalah constitute 53 per cent of the total, Emiratis accounted for 10.2 per cent and the rest of the GCC 9.7 per cent. More international tourists are expected this year, thanks to the online visa facility.