Sultanate continues to feature on global destination hotlists; 1.4 million international tourists targeted by 2019 with increased airport capacity and diverse offering key to growth.The annual Arabian Travel Market roadshow series returned to Oman, as the Sultanate continues to work on leveraging its international profile, which saw inbound tourism numbers rise by an average of 7.4% per annum in the decade 2005-14 and 1.4 million international tourism arrivals targeted by 2019, up from 1.1 million in 2015.
The Reed Travel Exhibitions team were in Muscat, to meet with key industry players from across the country and discuss exhibitor opportunities for this year’s annual travel industry showcase as well as look at where the country stands with regards to its US$3.3 billion worth of tourism related projects.
Exhibitors from the Sultanate attending ATM 2016, which takes place at Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre from 25-28 April, include the Oman Ministry of Tourism, which has forecasted hotel room capacity to expand at an annual growth rate of 5.3% over the next three to four years, and contribute 10% of GDP by 2020.
“Oman’s Tourism Strategy for 2015 through to 2040 has an investment value of US$35 billion and the country is working hard to increase its global appeal with exciting initiatives such as the launch of an e-visa system by Royal Oman Police in February last year,” said Nadege Noblet-Segers, Exhibition Manager, Arabian Travel Market.
“It has also been a destination on several travel hotlists, and was ranked in 20th spot on the New York Times list of one of the 52 places to visit in 2015 as well as gaining kudos from popular travel site, Skift, which last year named it as the number one spot in the region, saying that it ‘packs a lot [into] a small package’,” she added.
It is also seventh out of the 100 places most favored by Muslim tourists, according to the Global Muslim Travel Index.
Recent figures from the Oman Airports Management Company for both Muscat and Salalah airports recorded an 18% rise in passenger numbers through the capital’s gateway in 2015, surpassing the 10 million passenger mark for the first time in its operational history, while Salalah Airport also saw a rise in traffic by 22% to reach more than one million passengers.
Accessibility is a key focus with Oman Air, for example, launching a new route to Dhaka and enhanced capacity to Frankfurt, Colombo, Tehran and Dammam.
“These figures are indicative of the growing appeal of Oman to a diverse international audience and the country is expanding its tourism offering to cater to all segments including mid-market, which is something that we are focusing on this year as our spotlight theme,” said Noblet-Segers.
“This is responding not only to the needs of the more budget-conscious traveller, but also for those whom quality and experience-led travel doesn’t necessarily have to mean a five-star price tag,” she added.
According to the Reed Travel Exhibitions commissioned Q3 2015 YouGov Travel Oracle insight report, one-third (36%) of surveyed leisure travellers from the region now choose budget hotels when travelling for pleasure, with Asian expats the most likely to opt for low cost accommodation (52%) and 35% of all respondents stating that reasonable cost is one of the most important elements when considering a leisure destination.
Overall, 41% of travellers interviewed had a per person trip budget of US$1,000 or less, thus putting cost high on the priority list.
The YouGov report also looked at business travel, with 15% of total respondents reporting a decrease in corporate travel budget over the last 12 months, which is accordingly highlighting an opportunity for mid-level brands to target the newly budget-conscious corporate traveller.
The visibility of special deals/promotions when selecting a hotel for business travel was also raised in the research, with 18% of those surveyed naming special offers as the top decision influencer followed by the influence of the company travel organiser (15%).
ATM 2016 will build on the success of this year’s edition with the announcement of an additional hall as Reed Travel Exhibitions looks to add to its record-breaking achievements earlier this year. ATM 2015 witnessed a year-on-year visitor attendance increase of 15% to over 26,000, with exhibiting companies increasing by 5% to 2,873. Business deals worth more than US$2.5 billion were signed over the four days.