Spotlight on Oman's appeal as unique Arabian destination

An artist’s impression of Oman’s Blue City

The fourth edition of Oman Travel Market (OTM) held from April 15 to 17 at Oman International Exhibition Centre attracted over 40 prominent participants representing the travel and tourism sector around the world. Organised by Oman International Trade and Exhibitions (OITE), the event further consolidated the Sultanate's growing appeal as a unique Arabian destination.

OTM showcased as part of a 3-in-1 event, alongside International Property Exhibition and Money World 2008 (a banking, finance, investment and insurance show).
'These three sectors are closely connected, hence the move to bring them together,' Sadiq Ahmed Khan, director of sales and marketing, OITE, said. OTM’s aim was to promote in-bound and out-bound tourism, Khan said, adding that the exhibition put the spotlight on innovative travel and tourism products, services, trends and destinations in Oman and the rest of the world.
'This is an opportunity to see what is new, keep up to date, get independent professional advice and discover money and time saving tips. OTM will introduce novel and unique destinations as well as facilitate access to detailed information than travelers would generally receive from other sources. With the current real estate developments in tourism designated areas, the holiday options in Oman complement as lucrative investment opportunities,' Khan pointed out before the event.
Leading regional airlines that participated in OTM were Oman Air, Etihad Airways and Egypt Air. 'Oman is one of Etihad's fastest growing markets in the region for business and leisure travellers. OTM is well respected across the region and a key platform for us to communicate with new and established customers,' Jaffar Juma Abdullah al Lawati, Etihad Airways Oman country manager, said.
Local companies included Promo Oman, Al Hoota Cave, the Sultan's Armed Forces Museum, Safeer Tourism & Hotels Co and SAMA Tourism Villages.
Prominent OTM participants from abroad included Bangkok Hospital Medical Centre, Egyptian Tourist Authority, India Tourism - Dubai, Iran Culture Heritage and Tourism Organisation, Indonesian Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Tourism Malaysia, SAMA Tourism Villages and Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
'Oman has emerged as a favourite destination on the world tourism map. Gone are the days when the mention of Oman raised ignorant queries on its location and importance. Today, the country enjoys unparalleled popularity as a destination which offers the true Arabian experience, thanks to proactive efforts by the Ministry of Tourism and the travel industry in Oman,' Khan said.
The build up to the tourism momentum in Oman is attributed to sustained marketing strategy adopted by the Ministry of Tourism, especially the appointment of market-based representatives (MBRs) in all major European countries that account for the perennial flow of tourists to various parts of the world. The infrastructure development in the hospitality sector has complemented the robust tourism march of Oman, Khan pointed out.
 The new mega integrated tourism projects, including the Blue City, the Wave, Muriya's Jebal Sifah and Salalah developments, Salam Yiti, golf courses and luxury hotels will dramatically improve the tourism infrastructure in Oman, he added.
The Sultanate’s peace and stability are major factors instrumental in boosting the tourism prospects. With pleasant winter weather, peace and stability, the sentiment is very good as planeloads of tourists are arriving in Oman, Khan said.  
Oman offers an authentic Arabian experience in a clean and safe environment. The Sultanate has a big advantage in this regard as culture, heritage and traditions are preserved and mass tourism is not encouraged, Khan pointed out. Omani hospitality is renowned and appreciated by tourists, he added.
The robust growth of tourism in Oman is reflected in the doubling of leisure visitor arrivals between 2000 and 2005 and a steady increase thereon. Oman is also witnessing significant growth in visitors from the Middle East, especially the GCC countries, Khan said.
Oman's scenic landscape includes a 1700-km coastline, awesome deserts, sombre mountain ranges and a lush southern region. Increasing awareness of Oman, new hotels and resort facilities and the development of more destination activities are set to help drive tourist arrivals.
With the creation of a full-fledged Ministry of Tourism in 2004, the mounting importance of tourism as an aspect of socio-economic growth was realised. The ministry has set a target to raise the tourism industry's contribution from its current 0.9 per cent of GDP to 3.0 per cent by 2020.
The freehold ownership law, allowing foreigners to own real estate in designated integrated tourism-related areas, is a sure sign of the government's commitment to develop the tourism sector.
By Kavita Pandit