India is ‘very important’ source market for the Sultanate of Oman, says Asma Al-Hajri, Deputy Director General, Tourism Promotions, Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, Sultanate of Oman. She shares USPs of the destination that will surely inspire Indian tourists.
With the tourist footfalls from foreign countries increasing, tourism in the Sultanate of Oman is recovering fast. To cater to the growing number of tourists and further promote the destination, Oman’s Ministry of Heritage and Tourism conducted a special promotional roadshow in five major source cities of India from 22 to 29 August 2022. The roadshow comprised a delegation from the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, tour operators, hotels and airlines.
Speaking about the destination, Asma Al-Hajri, Deputy Director General, Tourism Promotions, Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, Sultanate of Oman, said that Oman is blessed with nature, culture and adventure, and that is the unique selling point of the destination. “We are optimistic about the number of tourist arrivals this year and targeting to reach the pre-pandemic levels,” she said.
Oman received around 167,678 Indian travellers this year from January to July. Asma said that their focus is on providing quality experience to the visitors. “Oman is not a mass tourism destination. So, we are looking for the quality and responsible travellers to make sure that our country is preserved and respected, our culture and history is not destroyed,” she said.
She underlined the fact that Oman is COVID-free and there are no travel restrictions at present. “Indian travellers can apply for a visa on arrival, for 14 days and must book a hotel room in advance. They must have health insurance and a local manager who can manage their visit,” she said.
Asma said, “India is a very important market for us. We have seen a good growth before pandemic, and in the first seven months this year, we have received around 167,000 Indian travellers already. There is a strong relationship between the two countries and there is similarity in cultures as well, which adds to the reason why Indians should visit Oman.”
She said that during the roadshow in India she came to know that Indian tourists are evolving and so are their expectations. They seek to explore the destination more deeply. They are looking for experiences rather than classic tours, and that is what all of Oman has to offer. “It’s an experiential destination, wherever you go in Oman, you will have different experiences. There is culture and history to explore, there is adventure to enjoy, there is everything, I would say, what Indian travellers are looking for.”
She revealed that currently there are more than 600 3-star or higher ranked hotels in Oman and they expect close to 29,000 rooms in the country by 2023. “We are looking into the Indian travellers’ five nights to six nights stay at present. Since Oman is blessed with geographical beauty, and is a vast destination, the overnight stay could be easily extended to 10 nights.”
She said, “We also seek to promote Oman as an attractive destination for weddings as this is one of the growing tourism segments, especially for visitors from India. With its pristine nature, picturesque beaches and unique architecture, Oman has seen many Indian weddings.”
Speaking about the pandemic induced changes, she said, “We have seen a shift in people’s behaviour when it comes to travelling. Looking into the post-pandemic travellers’ behaviour, I would say, they have become more independent. People love to travel on their own. They are choosing independent trips rather than the arranged groups trips. This is an advantage for Oman because Oman is an experiencial destination. People come to Oman, they visit mountains, explore the local villages (souks), and enjoy the culture and other things that the destination offers. So, destination incentives are well-suited to the new trends. In addition, Oman is a safe country to travel, travellers feel at home.”
She added, “I would like to re-emphasise on the importance of the Indian market in Oman. Since there are similarities in the culture of India and Oman, Indian travellers would not feel uncomfortable in Oman. Wherever they go, they feel they are a part of the country. When it comes to food, the Indian food is very much available everywhere. The language can be easily understood. And the most important is the experiences. People these days are looking for experiences rather than arranged or traditional trips. So, experience is something that everyone these days is looking for, and that is what you will find in Oman.”