By Lakshmi Kothaneth — MUSCAT: May 6 – Oman is witnessing an increase in experiential travellers and becoming a weekend destination for tourists from the region. Last year, the number of inbound tourists visiting Oman reached three million. The profile of tourists visiting Oman is changing, as visitors from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and other parts of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) plan ‘weekend escapes’ or short vacations to the country,” said Asma Salim al Hajry, Assistant Director-General, Tourism Promotions and Marketing, Ministry of Tourism.
“Oman is seeing an inflow of visitors with an ‘experiential travel focus’. Visitors interested in history, culture as well as activities such as sailing, cycling, trekking, golf, diving, spa and wellness and other special interest groups have begun to visit the Sultanate,” said Asma.
According to her, “special interest groups” constitute one of the fastest-growing segments in world tourism, and Oman caters perfectly to this kind of tourists.
The official said Oman’s most important market remains the GCC, specifically the UAE and Saudi Arabia, due to their proximity.
“However, we are targeting China, Russia and the USA as new markets as they have expressed interest in visiting the Sultanate. India is a potential market for Oman, especially for Indian weddings and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events),” said Asma.
The Ministry of Tourism’s marketing strategy aims to promote Oman internationally as a quality destination for responsible tourists and, in doing so, spread the benefits of tourism across the Sultanate.
The ministry’s portfolio of marketing activities aims to showcase Oman as a preferred destination for leisure, MICE and investments.
“Leading the implementation of Oman’s National Brand Mark, our marketing focus is to position Oman as a premium destination for an authentic Arabian experience. Culture, heritage, nature and adventure feature in our promotions, with our call to action being ‘Beauty has an address — Oman’,” said Asma.
In addition to visitors wanting to experience the land and culture, Oman has been receiving wedding destination interest from India in the recent years. Asma explained, “In the beginning we were concentrating on attracting premium leisure travellers from India to Oman. In 2013, we decided to expand the tourist profile arriving into Oman and diversifying to other markets to increase arrivals for weddings and from corporate segments, etc.” To promote Oman in the destination weddings market, “we conducted our first wedding planners’ familiarisation (FAM) trip in 2013. Since then, we have conducted at least one wedding planner FAM every year”.
“We also actively conduct sales meetings and presentations with wedding planners and attend events associated with destination weddings. With the growing number of weddings taking place in Oman each year, our efforts are slowly but steadily yielding results,” said Asma.
The ministry’s marketing and promotional activities span brand awareness campaigns, trade training through e-learning programmes and tactical campaigns, events marketing and promotion (regional and national events), e-marketing using the ministry’s social media channels (Experience Oman), airline marketing cooperation, travel trade cooperation and consumer events and exhibitions, as well as regional tourism marketing and promotion.
The international activities are managed through representative offices in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, GCC, India and Australia.
The Ministry of Tourism has already participated in a few international exhibitions such as ITB Berlin and ATM and plans to continue doing so for the rest of the year.
The airline industry and the cruise sector are being considered equally significant in this ever-changing market.
“Both sectors are equally significant, given that Oman is positioned as a stable country – economically and politically; and is attracting an increased number of tourists in line with the massive investment from government in the tourism sector. Oman is pushing ahead with efforts to boost tourism numbers through the expansion of our aviation and cruise tourism infrastructure,” pointed out Asma.