One of the world’s leading business-to-business travel wholesalers, GTA, predicts that many more travel businesses and consumers will soon put the Sultanate of Oman on their holiday wish lists. In fact GTA has already seen fully independent travel (FIT) to Oman almost double in the last couple of years.
While the majority of GTA’s business to Oman still comes from the Middle East, as well as the United Kingdom due to a significant expatriate workforce, the company is enjoying increasing interest from other parts of the world, particularly Japan. GTA has seen a three-fold increase in Japanese visitors since 2010 and – although starting from a smaller base – Greece, France, India and Turkey have all seen growth reaching triple digits.
According to official figures, tourist arrivals to Oman are expected to grow 5.7% over the coming decade and the Sultanate is planning to invest US $39 million in its tourism infrastructure. Muscat International Airport’s new terminal will open next year, while upgrades to Salalah will help accommodate passenger increases brought via new services in 2013 by Qatar Airways and Oman Air. Hotel room capacity is also forecast to grow 5.3% by 2016 with over 5,000 rooms under development, including a large pool of luxury hotels and projects like the Wave, Muscat Hills and Muriya. Elsewhere, the port of Muscat is becoming ‘cruise only’ to attract more of these passengers.
Says Rami Mashini, GTA’s Vice President for Sales Middle East & Africa: “GTA has a long heritage in helping the world discover new destinations, whether that is Oman or elsewhere around the world. Our retail booking site, gta-travel.com, holds a vast portfolio of accommodation options, destination services, attractions and experiences, and makes it easy for businesses to successfully market and sell holidays to consumers.
“Now that we are part of the Kuoni Group, we add their market-leading experience in managing accommodation and tour experiences for cruise passengers to our own. We can also draw on Kuoni’s luxury product portfolio to provide the right accommodation choices as Oman seeks to attract high-spenders and visitors for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE). We can connect partners to MICE experiences through our Kuoni Destination Management brand.”
Oman’s appeals include the Wahiba sands and Wadi Bani Khalid oasis, shopping in the ancient Muttrah souk and village markets, and its historic mosques. Events are gaining quite a reputation too. The Muscat Festival offers a mix of cultural heritage and traditions, a well-regarded Fashion Week and the Tour of Oman Bicycle Race, which attracts some of the world's top riders and helps to promote the destination abroad. The destination also welcomes stages of Sailing Arabia - The Tour and the start of the global Extreme Sailing Series. Later in the year, celebrations for the Khareef season in July and August attract ever-increasing numbers.