Oman has slashed the cost of its tourist visas by up to 75 percent in a bid to boost the number of tourists to the Gulf state, its under-secretary for tourism has said.
New entry tourist visas, valid for ten days, will cost OMR5 ($13) while cruise visas for up to 24-hours will be free or charged at OMR5 for multiple visits. The cost of a single entry visa, valid for one month, will remain the same at OMR20.
“The government has moved proactively to improve Oman’s competitiveness in stop-over, short-stay and conference tourism, Maitha Al Mahrouqi.
“The changes also encourage travel to Salalah and other regional destinations, and conference organisers to consider Oman as an event location,” he added.
Travel and tourism is expected to contribute up to three percent of Oman’s GDP for 2011 and increase to 5.4 percent by 2012, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. The industry is expected to directly employ up to 50,000 jobs by 2021, the travel organisation said.
A key factor in Oman’s growth as a tourism destination is its position as a port of call for many cruise companies. Muscat’s cruise ship passenger arrivals increased to 230,000 during the 2010/2011 season, up from just 44,000 in 2007. This is expected to exceed 300,000 by 2015.
The new cost of visas is expected to boost tourism, said Al Mahrouqi. “The changes will be welcomed by the global travel and tourism trade. The changes make Oman very attractive for the growing stopover, business and cruise passenger segments - areas of great potential.
“The changes also open up possibilities for a wide range of trade and consumer tactical campaigns, including our stopover campaign with Oman Air.”
Oman said on Wednesday it is studying 30 locations around the country for their potential to be developed into tourism resorts and attractions.
Locations such as the Al Hoota, Majlis al Jinn and Suhoor Caves are being looked at for potential tourism development, Haitham Mohammed Ghasani, director of Tourism Promotion, Oman Ministry of Tourism said in a statement.