Muscat: The efforts of the governments in this part of the world, including Oman, to reduce the dependence on oil have been largely driven by travel and tourism.
Despite this overwhelming focus, the tourism sector’s contribution to Oman’s GDP has been facing challenges as it declined to 2.5 per cent in 2019 from 2.6 per cent in 2017 and 2.9 per cent in 2018.
The government aims to increase the contribution of the tourism sector’s contribution to GDP to six per cent by 2040.
With international tourism facing an indefinite worldwide lockdown, the figures for 2020 will be unprecedented and a wild guess for now.
The fear of getting stranded on a foreign land without sufficient cash, PCR tests after and before travel, mandatory self or forced quarantines have forced people to defer any type of non-essential travel for now or until the discovery of the vaccine.
Domestic tourism contributed to RO 609 million in 2019, compared to RO 685 million, underlying its equal importance. It may be also noted that Omanis dominated all guests across five to two-star hotels.
Given the circumstances, governments have been encouraging people to embark on domestic tourism or staycation to prevent the total collapse of the local hospitality industry that accounts for thousands of jobs.
“After nearly seven months of ‘stayhome’ and ‘workfromhome (WFH)’ I am looking for an option to get some fresh air away from the house, even if it is within the country’’, said Muna al Balsuhi, who is used to foreign travel in the summer every year.
“Within Oman package of the Omran is a good imitative but they should have launched the scheme after the opening of flights, so that people take flights to places like Khasab or Salalah. I am sure both hotel customers and the hotel staff will follow the health protocols.”
There is a national responsibility on all citizens and residents to promote the domestic tourism industry.
“The hospitality sector is the backbone of the future Oman, also for job creation. So we need to support this economy during difficult times and not just stay home and regret not having a foreign trip’’, said Sulaiman, a government employee.
The employees of some leading hotel brands that have the WithinOman scheme told the Observer that the response has been positive but at the same time customers are extremely mindful of getting an infection.
“This winter will be extremely important for the domestic tourism in Oman I am certain people as stakeholders will support this vital industry in the country’’, said a senior official at the Ministry of Tourism.
According to the UN’s World Travel Organization, the world witnessed a loss of 440 million international arrivals that wiped out $460 billion in export revenue in the first half of 2020. That is almost five times the loss in international travel revenues recorded during the 2008 global financial crisis.
Over the past month or so, restrictions have been eased in nearly 50 per cent of the world’s travel destinations. Although there are new safety measures in place that alter the travel experience considerably, we must see this as an opportunity to inject resources into the travel sector, in order to jumpstart economic activity and begin the slow process of recovering the massive losses.