Oman offers a rich combination of history, culture and scenic, natural beauty.
With this winning mix of attractions, the government is firmly pushing ahead with plans to establish tourism as a key player in the economy.
Among the many measures introduced, restrictions on tourists entering the country have been eased with visas now being available on arrival.
TTN spoke to Oman's under-secretary of tourism, Mohsain bin Khamis Al Baloushi, who outlined his country's tourism push:
Q. In your opinion, what makes Oman an important destination in the Arabian Gulf?
A. Oman has a lot to offer to tourists. Historically, its culture is typical of life in the Arabian Gulf.
Now we all know that natural beauty and nice weather with four seasons makes any country and, not just Oman, an ideal destination. However, the Sultanate has its own key selling points.
Muscat, for instance, has its own personal charm. Tourists will not fail to be impressed by its greenery and pleasant weather. And although the hot season starts in Muscat before any other city in the Gulf, it also starts cooling down in July, which is unique to the region.
Q. What's the government going about its bid to make tourism a major player the the Sutanate's economy?
A. The government is currently focusing on implementing new strategies and several new plans are under way. We are very sure that by having a strong infrastructure and offering quality services, we can successfully foster tourism. Contracts for new projects have been signed recently and we will shortly be unveiling details of them.
We're looking to woo long-term investments for the whole country as our tourism development is very much sustainable.
Q. Does Oman have a targeted time-frame for realising its goals in the field of tourism?
A.Our goals are linked by progress and not to a time-frame or certain date. Everything we implement comes in response to the needs of tourists. Tourism nowadays is different from what it used to be, because it is comes out of the nation's needs, with each new generation adding something unique to this sector.
Q. What is the reason for the slow rate of new investments in the Sultanate. Is it red tape or complicated rules that keep investors away?
A. Our rules are not complicated, and the government is always working for the benefit of the country as well as the investors. We evaluate each project based on our own needs and its importance, and if it will contribute positively to tourism.
Q. Opportunities are being opened to different types of investors in the Arabian Gulf. Is it the same in Oman, and what sectors is Oman giving priority to?
A. We welcome all investments and offer a level playing field for both local and foreign investors. But we are careful to avoid problems of oversupply, because that could stall the tourism development process.
Q. What about the targeted markets, can you highlight facts and figures?
A. In terms of neighbourhood tourism, we have a good influx of visitors coming from the UAE, thanks to our road links.
We are working closely with Dubai and the UAE to keep this figure as high as possible, by offering special promotions to both Emiratis and and residents of the UAE, who come on weekends to the Sultanate.
Also, new laws enable Emiratis enter Oman freely.
The immigration point at Al Wajaja is very busy but we have never had any reports of difficulties experienced by tourists who come to the Sultanate by road.
Saudi nationals are among the other GCC visitors who come here in large numbers.
Further abroad, Oman is a hot favourite among the Germans, who account for the largest number of visitors from Europe.
Q. What about facilities in the rest of the Sultanate besides Muscat?
A. We do not only promote Muscat, as that would be unwise.
We actively promote other destinations such as Salalah which is a place of breathtaking beauty.
Each place in Oman has something different to offer and we do our best to promote them.
Q. What about marketing? Does Oman only participate in trade exhibitions?
A. No we do not limit our marketing efforts to trade exhibitions only.
We have a comprehensive promotional and marketing campaign in place. We have a PR agencies working for us in different countries.
And most recently, we signed on Al Rais Travel (during the Arabian Travel Market) to promote the Sultanate's attractions to the UAE.
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
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