Spotlight: Travel without barriers

Muscat: The Sultanate is reputed for its warm hospitality and welcoming tourists from all over the world. The citizens are reputed to welcome tourists from wherever they are and whatever challenges they might have.
If you are a guest in a wheelchair, or with any other chronical illness, this should not stop you from discovering Oman.
Few hotels in Oman are equipped with barrier free rooms, as well as many sights within Muscat and other tourist areas are made as barrier free as possible. The Sultanate also has many organisations and individuals supporting Omanis and residents within the community with their projects as well as assisting tourists on request.
Rebecca Boos, General Manager, Hashtag Oman Tourism and Partners, says Omani citizens are willing to go the extra mile to contribute and fulfil the dreams of any visitor, be it disabled or not. “We are here to meet your needs, creating bespoke itineraries, personalising trips and providing insights on the local way of life, so every visitor feels at home. Anyone who has a dream to explore Oman, within all its different offerings, is welcome. Arranging a roundtrip for guests with disabilities is beyond rewarding for all participants including the agency and the local guides,” she says.
Boos further mentions that it is the desire of their boutique tourism company to see the guests experience first-hand Omani hospitality and provide tailor-made experiences for passionate travellers and groups and the constant need to be ‘kind and caring.’
Tariq Jawad Jaffar al Khabori, cofounder of Oman Disabled Divers (ODD), says, “We need to move beyond charity, and provide real time opportunities for the disabled to experience life, and this is what we do at ODD.”
Al Khabori was responsible for organising the first dive challenge in 2009 in which 15 visually challenged Omani men experienced scuba diving for the first time at Marina Bandar al Rowdha. “It was quite an achievement for the Sultanate,” he recollects. Roopa Jog, who promotes inbound tourism, says all hotels in the Sultanate have two or three rooms with facilities such as wheelchair access to showers and washrooms.
The travel agent company where she works for also provides a wheelchair accessible vehicle which comes with extra charges. Christin Reinhold, Operations Manager at Hashtag Oman, says she loves to arrange barrier free tours and recollects an incident in particular which was very special to her.
Once visitors from the UK had booked a tour in which two of them were blind and their spouses visually impaired.
Quite a bit of planning was involved in their visit and Reinhold decided to go and meet them personally while on their tour to Muscat.
While they walked through, one of the ladies who had no eyesight stopped right under the large chandelier of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, and enquired with her if this was the centre of the room.
The visitor felt a very special aura and warmth while standing exactly at this spot. “Till today this moment is one of the reasons I love to arrange barrier free tours. Being inclusive opens so many new experiences to ourselves and others. We can share and experience together and Oman has welcomed guests from many different walks of life and arranged tours with local Omani guides for many visitors,” she explained.

Liju Cherian
@cherianmathiker