Tourism guesthouses should meet set criteria

Muscat: The Ministry of Tourism has said that any tourism home must be licensed by the ministry and should meet the specifications and classification criteria to host visitors. Clarifying this, an official from the ministry said that various measures are in place to ensure responsible tourism. While families hosting tourists at home may not suit the culture or lifestyle in the country, guesthouses are proving to be popular.

There are three options for guesthouses. The specifications required by the ministry state that the building must be constructed on a residential land, has a dedicated reception area and features three to nine rooms. The guesthouses are only allowed to operate outside the Muscat Governorate, with the exception of the Wilayat of Qurayat.

“This regulation is in place because half of the licensed hotels are located in Muscat Governorate, whereas outside the governorate there is shortage of rooms,” said Said al Obeidani, Assistant
Director-General for Classification and Control, Ministry of Tourism. In total there are 32 guesthouses in Oman, most of them are in North and South Al Sharqiyah, followed by Al Dakhiliyah.

There are 23 more guesthouses which have been approved, but are not yet operational as they are waiting to receive necessary sanctions from other entities, while another 13 are currently in constructional stage.

On the other hand, two successful ventures are heritage houses and green houses (farmhouses) which have not only successfully broken into the tourism market, but have been able to
generate jobs within the community.

“Some of the heritage guesthouses have established good relations with agents abroad, and are booked and fully occupied throughout the tourism season. There is surely a demand for
more, but these homes should be old to be accepted in this category, as this is also an important way to preserve old structures.

“Building new houses as heritage homes will not meet the requirement,” said Al Obeidani, stressing on authenticity. “Tourists are coming to Oman for this unique experience.” The opportunity is tremendous as there are many areas in Oman which have ‘Hara’ (group of old houses) — some of them are in Salalah, Mirbat, Al Hamra, Ibri and Waqan.

Meanwhile, another concept which is catching on is the green guesthouses (farmhouses). Heritage inns and farmhouses are allowed in all the governorates of the Sultanate, but there are specifications for these categories too. For farmhouses, the first approval should be obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Only a part of the farm land must be used
to build the guesthouse, and the most important factor is the farm should be functioning to be certified as green guesthouse so they should be on agricultural lands and not on residential or commercial lands.

The guesthouses and other tourism establishments are often visited by the ministry officials to check the quality of services and maintenance. The ministry is also organising workshops
regularly to spread the awareness on providing and maintaining quality of services, while operating three types of guesthouses — the regular ones, heritage and green guesthouses.