Oman invites summer tourists to get ‘cool’

The Frankincense Tree, popularly found in southern Oman is a major attraction among tourists

IN a bid to boost the popular Khareef season, Oman’s Ministry of Tourism has launched a “Cool Destinations” summer campaign on, the leading on-line accommodation booking site.

The campaign runs until September 30, 2012 and involves over 1.7 million page advertisements that link to a dedicated landing page that highlights Oman’s summer destinations including Salalah’s Khareef weather that runs until September; the Hajar Moutains’ high altitude resorts and getaways, Oman’s east coast including the peak nesting season at the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve and Masirah Island; and Oman’s many resorts, spas and hotels with value-based summer offers.

Statistics from the National Centre for Statistics and Data in collaboration with the Tourism Ministry, the Royal Oman Police (ROP) and the Khareef Season Visitors Survey 2012 show the number of tourists visiting Salalah from June 21 to July 4, 2012 amounted to 31,335 compared to 28,331 during the same period last year, a growth by 10.6 per cent. Omanis constituted 46.9 per cent, Emiratis 13.4 per cent and other GGC citizens 20.4 per cent.

Salalah Airport is witnessing a growing tourism activity since the beginning of the Khareef season in terms of the number of domestic and international flights. The airport will undergo major expansion plans that will see the development of a new terminal increasing its capacity to one million passengers annually by 2014. The airport will be designed to allow for further expansions to cater for future demand growth to two and six million passengers annually when the demand is required.

Oman Air, the national carrier, has increased the number of domestic flights between Salalah and Muscat to almost 60 flights a week including two flights a week from Dubai to meet the growth in the tourism activity during Khareef season. Saudi Arabian Airlines also operates three flights weekly to Salalah. Air Arabia also launched on June 28, 2012 its first direct flight between Sharjah and Salalah by operating two flights a week, which will increase the number of tourists coming to Salalah by air to (32,389) tourists last year.

The domestic and international flights in 2011 constituted (nine per cent) of Khareef Season visitors. Many visitors still prefer to come to Salalah by land despite the long distance. The number of visitors coming by land amounted to (307,181) of the total number of visitors, which stood at (339,579). The visitors coming by land thus represent (90 per cent) of the visitors. The Khareef Visitors Survey 2011 pointed out that (99 per cent) of visitors to Dhofar are GCC citizens including Omanis and residents in the GCC countries.

The Khareef season cover parts of the eastern areas in the Governorate of Dhofar as the monsoon reaches the wilayats of Taqah (30 km north Salalah) and Mirbat (74 km from Salalah), coastal areas overlooking the Arabian Sea. The Governorate of Dhofar has rich tourist potentials, such as, white sand beaches, soft sand, mountains, wadis, plains, deserts, springs, natural fountains, caves, rich agricultural areas that produce semi-tropical products like coconut, banana, papaya, sugar cane, in addition to its creeks and sanctuaries.

Al Mughsayl beach also attracts many tourists who visit Al Marneef Cave, natural fountains, Al Hafa area, known for sea road, traditional markets, frankincense and Halwa shops. The Governorate has also many tourist attractions, such as the Khor Rori, Arabian archaeological site, the Frankincense Land Museum and Wadi Darbat natural park with majestic views of waterfalls, lakes, mountains, caves, wildlife and lush green vegetation. During Khareef season there is a 100-m-high waterfall and many cave chambers with old stalactites and stalagmites.