Salalah: This is the first time in so many years that the people in Salalah are not excited over the movement of summer clouds, which otherwise would have become talk of the town and treated as a good omen for the advent of Khareef.
The obvious reason for this is Covid-19, which has resulted in the cancellation of the Salalah Tourism Festival (STF), an annual extravaganza and popularly known as Khareef Festival among the locals.
It has dampened people’s mood and their expectation of doing some seasonal business either in the Itin Festival Ground where a massive festival marking the season takes place, or many other direct and indirect businesses.
Giving an insight into the situation a local businessman summarised, “The season will be there and there may be better season than previous years, but what we are going to miss in a big way is our business. I know many small businessmen who depend on Khareef for their livelihood – they do brisk business during the season and depend on it the whole year.”
Said Mohammed Bakheet, a businessman in Salalah, said the involvement of local people in tourism related businesses and jobs during the season are ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’. Both the businesses are going to be affected as there would be likely restrictions on visits of people in Salalah during the season.
“There is mass involvement of local people in business activities during Khareef season which range from renting their houses to selling agriculture products or even food and beverages.”
All those who depend on such businesses are going to be affected due to the situation arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Salalah Tourism Festival (STF) itself creates many job opportunities for local businessmen and entrepreneurs,” he said and stressed that it was far more important to save people’s lives first.
He put this situation as something forced upon the humanity globally as the impact of this pandemic is being felt all over the world and practically in every way of life.
It is important to think of roadside shops which do brisk business of local agriculture products during the season. “So high is demand for local agriculture products during the season that that we are not able to meet demand for coconut, papaya and bananas. This year, however, is a different scenario altogether,” said a roadside fruit seller in Hafa area.
Another smalltime businessman drew attention towards many Omani housewives who take part in the ‘Culture Village’ and ‘Traditional Food Court’ at the STF where handicrafts and traditional Omani food items are sold.
“Both the sections are big crowd pullers, which ultimately add to the business of local people. Added with this are the restaurants located in the city. All sorts of visitors that come to Salalah as tourists boost business either by staying in hotels, eating in restaurants or even touring in and around Salalah,” he said.