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Digital push

The Sultanate’s push to make e-visa processing paperless will go a long way in promoting tourism. It removes the whole hassle of having to furnish hard copy of key documents, making the process smooth and efficient. The move is timed right with the tourism season set to begin. The government prefaced the move by extending e-visa facility to visitors belonging to 116 occupations from 67 nations in June.

Now the e-visa is going paperless, making the whole process a breeze for tour operators. Since June, some 4,000 people have benefited from the e-visa push marking a sharp uptick. Tourism sector in the Sultanate is riding the digitisation wave heading north. There is a remarkable robustness about the nation’s tourism sector that is propelling the economy.

The nation’s tourism managers can be confident of getting to the 4.74-million visitors target set for 2020 much before that. Tour operators are excited about the prospects with several new tourism magnets set to get energised soon. The Muscat International Airport’s new terminal is expected to augment its passenger handling capacity and several new star hotel projects are coming up in different parts of the nation. Airlines are establishing new connectivity to spur tourism growth.

Alongside the traditional segments of tourism, the Sultanate is now promoting specialised segments. There is already considerable buzz about the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and events) potential of the Sultanate, buoyed by the newly opened Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre. The Sultanate’s push for iconic tourism that will focus on tourism centred on places of historical importance has been a huge success and is set to become even more so this season. The adventure tourism segment also has huge potential and the Sultanate is pushing to realise this.
The exciting possibilities that medical tourism and sports tourism hold are also being looked into. As some tour operators have point out, 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.

While throwing open the e-visa system, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs HE Yusuf Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah had made it clear that the efficacy of the sytem will help the state staff serve tourists better. 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 has been welcomed by most stakeholders.

The government has laid the right stress on infrastructure expansion, which is the single most important component in capacity building. 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.