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Digital edge

Indications are that the Sultanate’s e-visa push is powering tourism growth. It’s good news that since e-visa facility was thrown open to visitors belonging to 116 occupations from 67 nations in June, 4,000 people have benefited marking a sharp uptick. There is no doubt that tourist footfalls are riding the digitisation wave and headed north. There were more than 3 million tourists last year and this year’s figures are already showing robust growth. The nation’s tourism managers can be confident of overhauling the 4.74-million visitors target set for 2020. Tour operators are excited about the prospects with several new tourism magnets set to go on-stream shortly. The Muscat International Airport’s new terminal that will sharply increase its passenger handling capacity, several new star hotel projects coming up in different parts of the nation and new connectivity are set to spur unprecedented tourism growth. The nation’s tourism managers confirm the exciting possibilities that the future is bringing to the nation, including making it a sports tourism destination. Some tour operators point out that the nation has high potential for becoming a golfing destination considering the quality and variety of the golfing greens that are being laid out across different hospitality projects. The nation’s fairways offer excellent facilities to itinerant as well as occasional golfers. With more international flights available from European destinations, from where most golfing enthusiasts hail, there is big promise for such genre of tourism.

Throwing open the e-visa system, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs HE Yusuf Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah made it clear the efficacy of the sytem will help the state staff serve tourists better. He launched the system at the Royal Oman Police Special Task Force Command in Seeb in the presence of Minister for Tourism HE Ahmed Bin Nasser Al Mehrzi, Inspector General of Police and Customs Lieutenant General Hassan Bin Mohsin Al Shraiqi and other senior officials. The fact that the visa is priced at a comfortable 28 rials for a single-entry permit which is the same as that of the manually issued one will be welcome to many potential visitors as it compares well with what is offered by many other nations in the region.

Infrastructure expansion is the single most important component of capacity building. For this, the government has hit the right track by launching master plans for projects in different parts of the Sultanate. A tender will soon be floated to assess the viability of developing tourism projects in Musandam, Masirah, Nizwa and Jebel Shams as disclosed by Amira Al Lawati, Director General of Planning and Follow-up. These master plans dovetail into the government’s push for tourism under the economic diversification programme. Each of these places offer something unique to visitors. The master plan studies the feasibility of investment in a tourism complex that would include hotels and recreational areas and ways to develop the unique offering of each area. The new projects are part of the nation’s Tourism Strategy 2040 that is aimed at tapping the diversity that the nation offers to different segments of travellers with a broad spectrum of interests. In fact global agencies have appreciated that Sultanate’s growth strategy.