The Sultanate's tourism is set to rebound strongly following the normalisation of international travel this year, with the World Cup in Qatar as the big opportunity to boost visitor numbers

Oman's visitor numbers increase exponentially

AFP/MOHAMMED MAHJOUB - Egyptian tourists take a selfie while touring the village of Misfat al-Abriyeen, located in the escarpments of Oman's Grand Canyon

Described as the "pearl of the Arabian Peninsula", Oman is emerging as one of the most attractive destinations in the Middle East, and it is experiencing this. The number of visitors to the Sultanate has increased by 602% with 794,000 arrivals recorded up to May last year, according to the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI).

This high number of visitors to Oman during the first five months is what it experienced during the entire year 2021, which has enabled the country to recover the level of tourism to pre-pandemic levels. Similarly, the number of outbound visitors also saw an increase. From 472,000 Omanis who left in the first five months of last year, the figure has risen to 1.5 million.

Vista de la ciudad de Nizwa desde las murallas de la fortificación del siglo XVII del mismo nombre, a unos 160 kilómetros al suroeste de la capital Mascate AFP/GIUSEPPE CACACE

According to the latest NCSI figures, citizens of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) were among the top nationalities visiting the Sultanate up to May, with some 350,000 visitors, followed by Indians, Yemenis, Pakistanis and Germans. In this regard, European guests recorded the highest growth.

Zoco de la ciudad de Nizwa, a unos 160 kilómetros al suroeste de la capital Mascate AFP/GIUSEPPE CACACE

This seems to be the trend that Oman is set to experience over the coming months in the Arabian country's growth forecast. Following "higher-than-expected hydrocarbon production and stronger growth in non-hydrocarbon exports", Fitch Solutions said the Sultanate will benefit from a strong recovery in tourism activity.

Ópera Real en la capital omaní, Mascate. Desde acampadas en el desierto hasta hoteles de lujo, pasando por el avistamiento de tortugas e incluso el primer teatro de ópera a la italiana de la península arábiga, Omán espera hacerse un hueco en el panorama turístico mundial AFP/ MOHAMMED MAHJOUB

"We expect this momentum to continue through 2022, with Oman poised to benefit from Qatar hosting the World Cup," the global agency said in its report this past June. The firm also noted that "the normalisation of international travel will rebound in Oman's tourism". 

Turistas nadan en Wadi Shab en la región de Sharqiyah, cerca de la capital de Omán, Mascate AFP/ GIUSEPPE CACACE

In addition, the Omani government itself is developing plans to revive tourism and investment opportunities in this sector. The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion, together with the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism and private sector companies, are working on these projects to "attract qualitative investments in the sectors of economic diversification and create the appropriate framework for the success and development of all investments".

Ciudad portuaria omaní de Sur, al sur de la capital Mascate AFP/MOHAMMED MAHJOUB

The Ministry of Tourism also holds a key project to attract more tourism to the country: Mughsail Beach, which aims to be a popular beach in Salalah to attract visitors from all over the world as a year-round sustainable tourist destination.

Turistas caminan por la playa en la capital omaní, Mascate AFP/MOHAMMED MAHJOUB

However, what seems to be the biggest opportunity for Omani tourism is the World Cup in Qatar. The Sultanate's national airline, Oman Air, is preparing to operate shuttle flights between the two Arabian countries, which will make it more accessible for foreign fans to visit Oman when the World Cup takes place.

In this regard, the capital Muscat is one of the cities in the region that will welcome this audience due to its many tourist components represented in ancient markets and historical and archaeological monuments. Moreover, Oman is one of the cleanest and safest countries in the world.