Mumbai: Aiming to expand the horizons and cater to the growing appetite of Indian travellers, the Sultanate of Oman has charted out an ambitious action plan. Here, Lubaina Sheerazi, India Representative, Ministry of Tourism, Oman, speaks about the Indian angle of Oman’s tourism story.

“With this revised visa regulations, we are expecting the Indian arrivals across all segments to grow exponentially” – Lubaina Sheerazi, India Representative, Ministry of Tourism, Oman

Could you share FTA numbers into Oman in 2017 and what has been the growth compared to 2016?
In the last five years, Oman has witnessed over 23 per cent growth in Indian arrivals. In 2016, Oman received 2,97,628 Indian arrivals as compared to 2,56,210 arrivals in 2014, over 16 per cent growth in two years. In 2017, Oman has received remarkably higher Indian arrivals (3,21,161), showcasing growth of over 7 per cent in just one year.

Which are the customer segments that you seem to attract the most from around the world? Which are your key source markets and where does India stand?
The exotic, adventurous, historic, remarkable and geologically stunning Oman offers the most authentic Arabian experience to its visitors. Oman in the recent years has gained immense popularity with mature and evolved travellers. We aim to expand our horizons in terms of travel and tourism experiences for families, solo travellers, women travellers, honeymooners, adventure seekers, big fat destination weddings, and MICE. We are certain that the revised visa-on-arrival policies will offer expediency and convenience to travellers who have valid visas for the US, Canada, Australia, UK and Schengen States. It will encourage more impromptu trips to the Sultanate. With the revised visa regulations, we expect Indian arrivals across all segments, especially leisure and visitors to conventions and exhibitions, to grow exponentially. India is one of the key markets for Oman and we are certain that this proactive initiative by the Ministry will augment footfalls. Top five markets for Oman tourism would be GCC, India, UK & Ireland, France, and Italy.

Which Indian city/states contribute more numbers to Oman?
Oman Air is connected via direct flights with major Indian cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Lucknow, Kozhikode, Kochi, Goa, Jaipur and Thiruvananthapuram. Apart from that, Air India, Jet Airways, Spicejet and IndiGo also fly from various cities in India. Our communication and marketing channels reach most of these cities that we consider as our target markets. However, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmedabad and Kolkata are our primary source markets.

Which are the products/experiences/ activities you are promoting for Indian travellers?

Explore beautiful beaches
Whoever thought Oman only has a desert landscape will surely be surprised to see some of the most natural and pristine beaches in the world. Oman is a sailor’s delight as it houses world class yachts, cruises and a stunning marina. Take a coastal cruise to see hundreds of dolphins jump in the air acrobatically and swim in the azure waters of Oman.

Go glamping in the desert
Honey, Russet, Orange, Sorrel, Chestnut, Sienna, Copper, Ochre, Amber – pick any shade of brown from the palette and you might just find it in Sharqiyah Sands, Oman’s dunes that sprawl 200-km-long and 100-km-wide. Stay at Luxury camps or Bedouin camps and engage yourself in exciting activities like Sand Boarding, Dune Bashing, Quad Biking, Camel Safari, and Sand Spa, among others.

Where history, culture come alive
Get an insight into Oman’s rich history and culture by visiting historical forts, castles and museums. Visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque which has lavishly decorated archways, courtyards, opulent chandeliers, ornate doors, white marble floors, huge handmade Persian carpet and manicured lawn that is an architectural marvel. Also, The Royal Opera House, which hosts world class operas and musical performances, is a must visit in Muscat.

Land of mountains
Oman is home to some of the largest mountains in the Arabian Peninsula and postcard villages that lay nestled between rock faces. Also, canyons with fertile, lush, green orchards bearing almonds, apricots and pomegranates are just breathtaking. Stay at the luxury resorts at Jabal Akhdar or Jabal Shams, where temperatures drop considerably and indulge in thrilling activities like cycling, hiking, trekking, ferrata and canyoning.

Turtle nesting
Located at the headland of the Arabian Peninsula, Ras al Jinz houses one of the largest nesting areas for Green Turtles in the Indian Ocean.

Discover the underwater magic
Oman has a profusion of exotic marine life and some of the best dive sites in the world with countless species of fish and vast stretches of exotic coral reefs. A scuba-diving or snorkeling trip is highly recommended. Some of the most beautiful coral reef sites of Oman are located in Muscat area, Daymaniyat Islands, Bandar Jissah, Bandar Khayran, Fahal Islands, Sharqiya, Barr al Hikman, Masirah Islands, Dhofar, Musandam and Marbadh.

The azure waters of Wadis
Wadis (Valleys) form a unique environmental system in Oman, which are naturally created swimming pools due to rainwater. Among the most pristine is Wadi Bani Khalid, approximately 200 km from Muscat, where one must go for lunch with a beautiful view, indulge in natural fish pedicure, swim in the azure water of the Wadi and enjoy a day picnic with friends or family.

Shopping goes exotic
The host of international shopping brands, Avenues Mall or Grand Mall in Muscat, offer all-in-one shopping, dining and entertainment experience. For getting local souvenirs, one must visit Muttra Souk and Nizwa Souk known for silverware, pottery, frankincense, khanjar replicas, fresh Omani dates and halwa. For a sniff of something exotic, take a tour of Amouage perfume factory, which uses exotic ingredients like frankincense, roses, saffron and spices to make their trademark scents, known to be the ‘world’s most valued perfumes’.

We have seen an increase in MICE tourism with the recent launch of the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre’ in Muscat. Also, many new international hotel chains that have recently opened in Oman have increased the number of rooms and venues in the country. Diversification of tourism products, the newly-opened Muscat International Airport and the upcoming Phase II of the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) will bring momentum to MICE tourism.

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