Oman ports gear up for surge in liner traffic
Oman plans to build a cruise terminal as it gears up for an anticipated boom in cruise travel to the Sultanate, industry sources say.The Sultanate, which currently gets more than 75 cruise calls per year at its two ports of Muscat and Salalah, is expecting a 10 per cent increase this year following the easing of visa rules by the Government, a report said. Ships from more than 15 cruise companies call in at Oman ports between October and April, industry sources said. Cruise calls represent about 10 per cent of the travel market in the Sultanate, said a tour operator, adding that the liners primarily come from the US, with some from Europe. "If we take into consideration the entire Middle East including Jordan and Egypt, the market would be higher than 10 per cent," said Jude D'Silva, tours manager at Zubair Tours. According to him, when Zubair Tours, which today is one the leading company specialising in cruise travel, began cruise operations in 1989, Muscat received only one liner. He said there was a totally barren period over the next four years. Then German liners started calling at Oman ports followed by the Americans. "Now Oman receives prestigious cruise vessels, even from the Caribbean," said D'Silva. "At present, Oman caters to a wide range of cruise companies with a variety of excursions. We at Zubair Tours have the pleasure of handling the largest cruise line from the US with Royal Caribbean International making Oman part of their itinerary." In March this year, Zubair Tours had its "biggest challenge" with three cruise calls at Muscat on the same day.