Awareness must for tourism development

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 The Ministry of Tourism has implemented several awareness programmes aimed at boosting tourism and conservation of natural and cultural elements of the Sultanate. Amna bint Mohammed al Balushiya, Director of Tourism Awareness in the Ministry of Tourism, said that the aim of establishing a department for tourism awareness was to develop the culture of tourism among the people of the Sultanate, and to encourage youth to avail employment opportunities in the tourism sector, develop arts and craft, and help tourists to learn about the Omani culture.
On awareness campaign in schools, Amna al Balushiya said the department reached even in remote villages, where it was impossible to reach without airplanes. “In these areas we held awareness programmes for school students. Tours of neighboring governorates were organised for some of these students. Programmes were prepared to visit some tourist landmarks and get acquainted with them closely. This mechanism has strengthened inter-ministerial relations and fostered the concept of tourism in educational programmes. In the second phase, teachers, were targeted in the campaign. We contacted around 450 teachers in 11 governorates of the Sultanate between 2010 and 2018. In the third phase of the campaign, we went to elderly people and those with special needs including those who require sign language and the blind.This stage required us to provide tools and means to communicate with them in a simple and clear language. We also focused on students of colleges and universities to encourage them to work as tourist guides and learn the required skills, empower them to become ambassadors of tourism, motivate them to learn other languages including English, German and French.
Al Balushiya said that workshops were conducted for students. For children workshops made them learn about the tourist sites and prepare them to be tourist guides in future. For the students of class seventh and eighth, programme comprised of tourism education circles and their theoretical preparation to be tourist guide. The best among these students was honoured.
The Ministry of Tourism awareness team is carrying out campaigns in tourist sites to identify their needs. It visited many areas including Musandam governorate, Al Dhahirah governorate, North Al Sharqiyah governorate and parts of Dhofar governorate. Soon, sign boards will be installed in Al Wusta governorate in view of its distinguished geographical location.
The Ministry of Tourism has produced a new leaflets to create awareness about the Omani environment, especially about its inhabitants. The number of brochures it published reached more than 20,000 in 2019. “Recently, we reached out to the blind in cooperation Al Noor Association for the Blind and produced a tourist awareness brochure in Braille language. This brochure is the first of its kind in the Middle East.
On the mistakes committed by the tourists, Al Balushiya said: “We have awareness programmes, which we run with the help of different organisations of the public and private sectors, aimed at protecting environment from pollution and prevent harms caused by some tourists such as throwing waste in public places and beaches. Guidelines are displayed for those who like to watch turtles. They are asked not to put lights on the turtle hideouts, as well as not to make noise. One of the challenges which we face from some visitors of these tourist sites is their lack of adherence to instructions. We find that some use unlicensed boats, and camping in the areas closer to the wadis.”
A tourist awareness programme was launched recently in cooperation with social media influencers like broadcaster Khalid al Zadjali and Shaikh Salim al Numani who gave tourism awareness messages. The main objective of this programme was to reach out to the society. This programme included sharing of experience of a tour guide and his success in this area. This first such experience was done in various governorates including Dhofar, Al Dakhiliyah, Musandam and South Al Batinah.
“A number of students contacted us expressing their aspiration to work as volunteers in organising such programmes in colleges. Many low income families have also got benefit logistically and financially. The database shows that 90 poor families in Musandam, 70 in Muscat governorate and 100 In South Al Bathina benefited from tourism. There is a program to coordinate with such families to provide and supply craft products for tourists.

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