Oman travel agencies hit hard by fall in tourist arrivals after terror attacks


Tourism related businesses in Oman have been hit hard by the decline in flow of visitors, especially from Europe, following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US.

Travel agencies, tour operators, hotels, airlines and car hire firms have all reported cancellations and decline in bookings with some local travel agencies even asking their employees to go on long leaves, local media reported.

"The business is very stagnant now. This is a global phenomenon and not just confined to the Middle East region," said Hormaz Muncherjee, general manager of United Travel which operates inbound and outbound tours.

Sources said the company, which usually brings in bilingual guides from India or Sri Lanka for the season between October and March, did not bring them this year.

The leisure tourists, who visit the Sultanate, are generally from the European countries and the tour operators assist them by arranging trips and providing tourist guides.

Tour operators also arrange desert safari and camping, sightseeing, hotel accommodation, ticket reservation, bird watching, camel ride, etc.

"We are going through a very bad phase. There are cancellation of bookings up to February ," said an official of Orient Holidays of Al Haditha Group.

"Almost 70 per cent of our tourist clients are from Germany," said the official, who felt that there would be a revival after the current season.

There has been tough competition among tour operators due to the presence of innumerable players in the field. There are 162 tour operators, mostly working as part of travel agencies, in the Sultanate.

Admitting that there has been a significant decline in tourist inflow, a top Bahwan Travel Agency (BTA) however said signs of improvement were now emerging.