The Outer

Fitch Solutions: Tourism prospects are positive in the Sultanate of Oman supported by the expansion of infrastructure and entertainment facilities

By Manal Abdel Fattah

Fitch Solutions expects that the number of tourists visiting the Sultanate of Oman will continue to rise during the current year as the tourism sector continues to recover.

A special report on the prospects for the tourism sector in the Sultanate of Oman, issued by IBM Market Research, affiliated with Fitch Solutions, stated that last year witnessed a recovery in tourism flow rates to the Sultanate of Oman to near pre-pandemic levels, which represents a strong starting point for further growth during the year.

Currently, the number of tourists is expected to continue to rise in the medium term during the period from 2024 to 2028, and markets in the Middle East will be the largest source of tourist influx to the Sultanate of Oman, followed by Asian and European countries.

The report explained that the growth of the tourism sector is supported by the increasing focus of sector development plans on the expansion of recreational tourism facilities and services, in addition to the strength of investments in the infrastructure of sectors related to the tourism sector, such as transport and communication.

This optimistic view of the prospects of the tourism sector in the Sultanate of Oman comes as an extension of the positive expectations issued by Fitch Solutions in its report last year on tourism growth, in which it indicated that growth expectations in the tourism sector in the medium and long term are enhanced by the progress of economic diversification efforts, and the ambitious targets of Oman’s future vision 2040. The sector is also finding great support from new investments and partnerships, and an increasing focus on digital marketing and promotion, especially in the markets targeted in tourism promotion plans.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, the travel and tourism sector has been the most affected by the consequences of the pandemic, as the sector lost the growth momentum that it had achieved before the pandemic, and during the year 2019, growth indicators in the tourism sector in the Sultanate of Oman were progressing well, and this included the movement of tourist flow of visitors and the number of trips. International travel to and from the Sultanate of Oman and hotel occupancy rates. The number of visitors to the Sultanate of Oman increased to about 3.5 million visitors in 2019, and the contribution of the tourism sector to the gross domestic product also increased. Due to the pandemic, the number of travelers in various parts of the year declined sharply, and in light of the clear recovery that the international tourism movement is currently witnessing, the number of visitors to the Sultanate of Oman increased to about 3 million visitors during the year 2023, according to statistical indicators issued by the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, which monitors The recovery plan launched by the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, as part of comprehensive government plans to recover and stimulate various sectors of the economy, has succeeded in returning the sector to the growth path. A comprehensive plan for tourism development is currently being adopted, and the plan focuses on various tourism activities, including cruise ships, incentive tourism, and conferences.

As a result, accommodation and food services activities achieved a significant increase in their contribution to the gross domestic product during the past year, recording a growth of 11.5 percent during the period from January 2023 until the end of the third quarter of the same year, with a contribution of 557 million Omani riyals to the gross domestic product of the Sultanate of Oman, evaluated at current prices compared to the current prices. With a contribution approaching 500 million Omani riyals for accommodation and food services activities during the same period in 2022.
Occupancy rates in 3-5-star hotels also increased over the past year, with the number of guests exceeding two million guests, with an increase in occupancy rates from 45 percent in 2022 to 49 percent in 2023.
In the travel sector, by the end of last year, the number of arriving and departing passengers and transit passengers through Muscat International Airport and Salalah, Sohar and Duqm airports exceeded 14 million passengers on international and domestic flights, and the number of departing passengers increased by 47 percent compared to 2022, and the number of passengers also increased. Arrivals increased by 40 percent, and the number of international flights at Muscat, Salalah and Sohar airports reached 92,000 international flights, and more than 11.5 million passengers were on board these international flights, an increase of 50 percent compared to 2022, according to statistics issued by the National Center for Statistics and Information.
The Ministry of Heritage and Tourism is currently implementing its tourism development plan, which includes objectives including enhancing tourism investment, facilitating project financing, developing the tourism product to meet tourists’ requirements, expanding cultural and geological tourism programs, and offering new tourism products, especially in leisure and adventure tourism. The Ministry announced that its executive plan for tourism development It aims to develop adventure tourism through 43 projects to be implemented in the short and long term, some of which are undertaken by the private sector. These projects aim to exploit one of the most important competitive elements of the tourism sector in the Sultanate of Oman, which is the unique diversity of terrain between seas, mountains, valleys and other natural elements. Which qualifies the Sultanate of Oman to become one of the most important international tourist destinations attracting adventure tourism enthusiasts. Among the planned projects are cable cars in the Omani Botanical Garden, zip lines in various locations, including Wadi Darbat in the Dhofar Governorate, a suspension bridge in Wadi Shab in the South Al Sharqiyah Governorate, and mountain trails. In a number of locations in the governorates, the recent period witnessed the opening of the zipline project in Musandam Governorate.

Investment in new tourism projects is also achieving good growth and diversification, and a number of projects have been opened that represent added value to the sector. The most recent of these projects were luxury hotels and resorts by major international companies such as the Trump Group. The Omran Group also entered into a partnership with the Saudi Dar Al Arkan to develop a project. “Aida” will be implemented through several stages with investments of about 1.5 billion US dollars. The Aida project is part of the general plan of the integrated tourism project, Yiti, which is one of the largest multi-use tourism and real estate projects in the Sultanate of Oman, which aims to support growth in the tourism and real estate sectors.
The tourism sector falls within the main growth pillars on which economic diversification trends depend, in accordance with the objectives of the Oman 2040 Future Vision and the Tenth Plan. The Sultanate of Oman aims to raise the growth rate in the tourism sector to 5 percent by 2030 and to 10 percent by 2040.

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