Sultanate shifting towards the e-Visa platform

The Sultanate is gradually moving towards e-Visa platform and all foreign tourists have been urged to obtain a visa prior to their departure, authorities told the Observer on Saturday.
Tourists, who are eligible for the unsponsored ‘Visa on Arrival’, have been asked to get an online visa.
A confusion also prevailed among a certain section of tourists on whether they will continue to enjoy the Visa on Arrival facility as they used to do so till date.
The Royal Oman Police (ROP) had announced applications for tourist and express visas will only be available online from March 21.
“Applications have to be made online at; they will not be available at the visa service desks,” said an ROP statement issued last month.
According to the ROP, it takes only five minutes and three steps to process an e-Visa: submission of application, payment of fees and receipt of notification, and printing of receipt.
According to sources at Oman Airports, the Visa on Arrival is still being issued to a specific category of inbound travellers, but tourists should avail of online visa for their convenience.
“In the next few days, we will be moving towards a complete online application process,” he said.
The US and UK embassies have urged separate statements for applying for tourist visas in advance via the ROP website.
Sayyid Adel bin al Mardas al Busaidy, adviser, tourism affairs, said, “e-Visa is the future, but the Visa on Arrival may continue for some time until the message is clearly conveyed to all travellers visiting Oman.”
Oman Wings, a leading travel operator, said it was expecting further updates on this matter in the coming days.
Maitha al Mahrouqi, Under-Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, had earlier said, “We are moving towards digital platform in this segment worldwide. It will have a positive impact. Now, every single tourist coming to Oman can avail of e-Visa.”
She said even tour operators and travel agencies can avail of these visa facilities. “The new airport has been equipped with e-Visa gates. No need to wait in long queues.”
The number of visitors to the Sultanate has increased 6.6 per cent annually from 2009 until the end of 2017, said a statement issued recently.
The number of visitors to the Sultanate increased 4.7 per cent to 3,261,484 at the end of 2017 as against 3,044,705 in 2016.
The ministry said the number of visitors in the first two months of 2018 (January and February) increased 10.8 per cent to 71,701 from 64,690 compared with the two months of 2017.
The total number of guests in three- to five-star hotels increased 11.6 per cent to 132,759 in January 2018 compared with 118,953 in 2017.
The total revenues of three- to five-star hotels rose 11.4 per cent.
The total arrival of international arrivals at Muscat International Airport increased 10.1 per cent to 1,144,617 in 2018 from 1,039,145 in 2017.