Muscat: Half a million jobs are to be created by the tourism industry by 2040, said Asma Al Hajry, deputy director general of International Tourism Promotions at the Ministry of Tourism (MoT).
“The National Tourism Strategy tells us that by 2040, 500,000 jobs will be created by the tourism industry. That’s a huge number.”
Earlier, the Times of Oman (TOO) had quoted a top official from Omran, the Sultanate’s tourism development and investment arm, as saying that a boom in Oman’s travel and tourism sector would create 143,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2025.
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) had forecast the creation of 120,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2025. It projected 80,000 jobs for last year, up from 75,000 jobs in 2014.
Al Hajry added that Strategy 2040 still included promoting Oman as a niche destination, but would now add the promotion of Oman as a destination for meetings, conferences and exhibitions, in addition to adventure travellers.
“We remain a niche destination, but we are now focusing on the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) segment, in addition to adventure tourism, special interest groups, heritage and culture lovers and the most important thing, responsible travellers. People coming here should be responsible travellers and not spoil our culture and heritage,” she said. Al Hajry also stressed the potential of adventure tourism.
“Based on research, the adventure segment is the fastest growing segment in the world and Oman fits very well in that segment, due to the landscape and natural resources.”
Al Hajry said Oman will retain its focus on “premium to niche” tourists and will “definitely not” target mass tourism.
A series of meetings are currently being held to highlight the Ministry’s achievements and upcoming plans for its representatives in 22 countries.
On Tuesday, the MoT had organised a B2B (business to business) interactive session between market-based representatives of MoT in 22 countries and local businesses in the tourism sector.
Dency Mathew, representing the MoT in India, told TOO that the unique feature, which draws Indian tourists to Oman, is the proximity to various landscapes.
“The best thing of Oman is that you can change the landscapes in two hours, from the mountains to the beach and the desert, whereas in India it takes a flight to do so,” she said.
Mathew further said that last year, the number of Indian visitors to Oman had increased by 17 per cent, compared with 2014.
“Indians are emerging as one of the top source markets for Oman,” she stated. She added that their promotion for Indian weddings in Oman has been “picking up brilliantly.”
Paola Cerri, representing MoT in Italy, said the strong Omani rial and the unrest in the region had not significantly affected the number of Italian visitors to Oman.
“We do not lose any travellers due to the strong rial, as our customers are high-end.”
She added that in 2015, growth in the number of visitors from Italy had decreased.
She added that the interest in visiting in Oman is still “very high,” but when something happens in the region, people get the idea that it is not safe to go to Oman.
“For this reason, we work a lot with media, because it is very important that the media come to Oman and see that it is a safe country. They can be the ambassador of our country,” she said.
Marthe van Leeuwen, the representative from the Netherlands, said that for the first time in 12 years, there had been a slight decrease in the number of Dutch visitors coming to Oman.
She said this was due to a weak Euro, which makes Oman expensive for them, in addition to the developments in the region.
“But for the coming season, I see an improvement coming, as there are more and more tour operators that are willing to include Oman,” she noted.
Van Leeuwen said many people want to return to Oman, once they have been here.
“We occasionally get 20-page e-mails from travellers expressing their enthusiasm about Oman as a destination, and the kindness of its people. The only thing they complain about is that a sign is missing somewhere. If that is the only thing, then you’re not doing badly as a destination,” she said.