Oman: The land of plenty

From its sandy beaches to its mountain peaks, Oman’s landscape is unique but is it enough to rubber-stamp the country’s new title as Arab tourism capital on the global map?

For years, the sleepy sultanate of Oman has been viewed as something of a secret tourism destination. Whether visitors have watched turtles hatching on the beaches at Ras Al Hadd, or explored the once-lost city of Ubar in the midst of the Empty Quarter, it’s immediately clear that the country does not suffer the difficulties associated with mass tourism in other parts of the world.

Now, it seems, Oman is really pushing to get the word out over its abundant natural beauty. The good news is that the sultanate appears to be on a particularly hot streak.

Not only did the Arab Tourism Ministers’ Council declare Oman as the Arab Tourism Capital for 2012, but the country was also ranked among the 20 top destinations in the world in the latest edition of the National Geographic magazine — the only Arab country to figure in the list.

In addition, Oman’s capital, Muscat, has been ranked the second-best city in the world to visit in 2012 by Lonely Planet, the popular travel guide publisher. Second only to London, the capital beat tourism hotspots including Cadiz, Spain; Bangalore, India; Stockholm, Sweden; and Orlando, USA.

With all the recognition the country has been attracting, pressure has been mounting on Oman to strengthen its preparations for tourism-related events and developments for the year — so the question remains, what will the sultanate do to secure its spot?

“These recent recognitions affirm the strong global interest in Muscat and Oman in general as a leisure, lifestyle and business destination,” says Haitham Mohammed Ghasani, director of tourism promotion at Oman’s Ministry of Tourism. “We expect 2012 to be a turning point in our effort to take the performance of our tourism sector to the next level.”

Oman’s homework has been done and it has drawn up ambitious tourism plans. Despite anti-government protests that have swept through the Middle East this past year, and the impact they have had on tourism and investor confidence in the region, 2012 looks like being a year of recovery.

Studying 30 locations around the country for their potential to be developed into tourism resorts and attractions, the sultanate is setting sights on attracting 12 million visitors a year by the end of the decade.

Such locations include the Al Hoota, Majlis Al Jinn (meeting place of the jinns) and Suhoor cave complexes, says Ghasani. It’s a little-known fact, but Oman boasts some of the largest and most extensive cave chambers anywhere in the world.

Plans are also in the pipeline for the construction of an archaeological park and a museum at the recently discovered Friday Mosque in Qalhat (near Sur), which was built around 1300 AD.

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Posted by: alex

I was in Oman this weekend, south of Muscat around Sur and Ras al Haad. It really is a wonderful country: amazing scenery and wonderful people.

The turtle nesting and hatching at Ras al Haad is really worthwhile! (but the Turtle Beach "Resort" definitely is not!)

Posted by: Paolo C

Yes, Oman has fantastic landscapes but to put Muscat on 2. position as a city to visit seems well exagerated. Sicily also has beautifull landscapes nonetheless the locals have done hardly anything to keep their beaches clean and develop a first class tourism. So to build a great tourism destination it's not enough to build a resort. You need some smart and entrepeneurs people all around and locals who understand. In both cases this is missing today, and will be the same in the next 20 years.

Posted by: JB Frontier

Sara, many thanks for the articale, i would like to raise the hotels rate in Oman are very high rate and expensive, the Ministry of Tourism should study and control the hotel rate, yes agree with your article Oman is extremely beautiful, if only the minites could get out to see it at a reasonable price. this issue should be discussed with MOT,

Posted by: Sue Hutton

compare this with article also in Arabian Business that 65% of private sector tourism projects fail to get off the ground for lack of development funding. Oman wants only "high net worth" tourists, who they assume will stick around high priced resort enclaves. Periodically, they get tourists in to write about how marvellous the country is - and it is extremely beautiful, if only you could get out to see it at a reasonable price. People have set up desert camps and mountain retreats. How well advertised are they?


If the Sultanate of Oman which has 2.5 million inhabitants would like to the increase the number of tourists to 10 million a year, then the responsible for tourism there should ask themselves why the hotels in the sultanate are very expensive and try to do something about it and about the general infrastructure in the country, clean restaurants ........

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