Oman will see an increase of increase of about 11 percent in tourists this year – reaching a record total of some two million visitors – thanks to Gulf residents looking for cheaper holidays in the region, tourism officials and operators said Sunday. “The global crisis has forced Gulf nationals to travel closer to home and Oman is hugely benefitting from it,” Khalid al-Ghassan, head of development at the Tourism Ministry said.
About 1.8 million tourists visited Oman in 2008, 75 percent of whom were regional residents from Oman’s five energy-exporting neighbors who make up the Gulf Cooperation Council economic bloc (GCC), Ghassan said.
The number of GCC residents visiting Oman increased 6 percent in the first half of 2009 to 710,000 compared to the same period last year, Ghassan said.
Some 1.1 million tourists visited Oman in the first six months of this year, up from 980,000 over the same period in 2008, according to Ghassan.
Suleiman al-Harthy, managing director of Horizon Tourism said: “The improvement of oil prices, and I guess the H1N1 flu, have also got something to do with the rise of GCC tourists.”
Apart from Oman, the GCC states comprise of UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait. The GCC states rely heavily on crude oil exports, which represent some 70 percent of their income.
Gulf States have seen revenue fall with the slump in oil prices from a peak near $150 in July 2008. Crude prices have recovered from lows around $32 a barrel in December to around $70.
Travel agents said that the mild weather of the south made Salalah the major tourist attraction for Gulf nationals during summer months, with Ras Al-Hadd popular during the winter.
“Gulf citizens and Europeans love Salalah during the summer and the place is booming … they also go to see turtle nesting at Ras Al-Hadd,” said Mustafa Al-Khairy of Bahwan Travels.