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Business as usual for Oman Tourism.

Byline: Our Correspodent

(Catgeory: News)

The economic crunch that the world is reeling under has severely dented tourism. With the US, Europe, Japan

and other major spending powers bearing the brunt of the recession, the tourism industry appears to be under dark clouds for now.

According to UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) figures, the growth in international tourist arrivals in June, July and August fell to below two per cent after averaging 5.7 per cent between January and April.

NWTO said its initial forecasts in the wake of the recent meltdown indicate Aoan even more modest performanceAo in the tourism sector for 2009. But Oman, which attracts the majority of its tourists from Europe seems unfazed by the pall cast over the world tourism industry.

Lonely Planet travel magazine recently listed the sultanate among the top ten destinations to visit in 2009. Over 98,000 cruise passengers are expected in Muscat this winter, with Costa Cruises increasing its regional capacity by 50 per cent following the return of the Costa Classical (1,680 passengers), which is being joined for the first time in the sultanateAAEs waters by the Costa Victoria (2,394guests).

Additionally, AIDA Cruises is doubling its capacity with the introduction of the AIDAdiva (2,500 guests) in its operations here. AoOman being a small market Au as against Dubai Au and a niche market for high-end travellers, the effects of the economic slowdown are not far reaching,Ao said Arbind K Shrestha, general manager of Barr al Jissah Resort & Spa, which has seen 70-90 per cent occupancy in the last quarter of 2008.

Arbind explained that Oman is a high-end destination with low inventory and a limited supply of hotels. In contrast to the 9,600 hotel rooms that Oman has to offer, Dubai has more than 50,000. AoSo, the effect of any change in tourism will have a more lasting effect on Dubai.Ao The Chedi Muscat saw a slight drop in occupancy in November. AoBut December to February at this point of time looks quite normal in terms of forward bookings,Ao said Lore Koenig, director of sales and marketing at the hotel.

She has, however, seen a change in the booking pattern recently Au while earlier reservations were made well in advance, there seems to be a tendency now to book at shorter notice. AoBeing a five-star leisure resort, The Chedi Muscat specialises in the high-end holidaymakersAAE market with very few business travellers.

Having received two very prestigious awards this year, from Conde Nast Traveller and the Leading Hotels of the World, we are sure to have established ourselves well enough to still attract those in need of a good vacation," Lore said.

The effect of the slowdown has also not been visible in the movement of international air traffic to Oman. From January to October 2007, the sultanate recorded 1.17mn incoming passengers, while 1.38mn arrived in the corresponding period in 2008 Au an increase of 18 per cent. AoThere was a slight decline this September, but that was only due to Ramadan,Ao said Wihaad al Harthy, marketing manager, aeronautical, Oman Airports Management Company.

One company appearing reasonably well set in these difficult times is Khimji Ramdas Shipping. Zahara Tours and Khimji Ramdas Shipping bring in the majority of cruise liners to Oman and predict good business this season.

While they attribute the present situation to bookings for cabins on cruise ships made six to eight months in advance, they believe the real impact will only be visible next season.

AoEverything is going as per schedule. We expect 58 port calls from November 30, 2008 to April 2009,Ao said M C Jose, CEO, projects and logistics group, Khimji Ramdas Shipping. AoThe current crisis doesnAAEt bother the very rich; they make their bookings last minute. The impact of the current situation will only become clear next season,Ao he added.

Maintaining that Oman is on the right track in tourism development, Arbind said itAAEs prudent to focus on a niche segment rather than on the masses. AoWe must focus on quality rather than quantity. We donAAEt need to be Dubai; we need to be essentially Oman, carefully maintaining our pristine natural surroundings and holding on to our cultural ties with the past so as to have a sustained tourism industry that will last for generations to come.Ao

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Publication:The Week (Muscat, Oman)
Date:Jan 4, 2009
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