The contribution of travel, hospitality and tourism to the Omani economy totalled around RO 1.293 billion in 2019, up from RO 1.233 billion a year earlier,entailing an increase of 4.9 per cent, the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) said in a recent bulletin.
The industry, one of five pillars of the Omani government’s strategy to fuel economic diversification, has been dealt a severe blow by the coronavirus pandemic since March this year. Nevertheless, it remains a promising sector in terms of its potential to, among other things, contribute to socioeconomic development in rural areas of the country as well as create job opportunities for local Omanis.
The value added of tourism amounted to RO 717.9 million in 2019, accounting for 2.5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – a contribution that needs to be significantly ramped up if the government’s goal of achieving a 6-per cent GDP share by 2040 is to be met.
Still, direct value added from the sector has been growing incrementally over the past five years, rising 4.1 per cent from RO 689.5 million in 2018 to RO 717.9 million last year. 2017 represented a bumper year for the sector with direct value added reaching RO 738.4 million, up from RO 682.6 million in 2016. The uptick was attributed to an increase in the value added of some activities, such as restaurants and land transport.
Significantly, 47.1 per cent of the tourism sector’s contribution (corresponding to RO 608.7 million in value) came from domestic tourism, underscoring the importance of this segment of the industry to the tourism economy. Revenues accruing to hotels and lodgings totalled RO 146.1 per cent (24.0 per cent). Domestic tourists also spent around RO 83.2 million (13.7 per cent) on shopping and entertainment, travel and tourism services RO 82.1 million (13.5 per cent), air transport (12.4 per cent) and land transport (7.6 per cent).
However, inbound tourism accounted for the lion’s share (52.9 per cent) of the sector’s total contribution (RO 684.7 million) to the tourism economy, the report said. Around 3.506 million tourists and visitors travelled to the Sultanate last year, up from 3.242 million a year earlier, representing a growth of 8.2 per cent.
The sector itself has expanded over the years in step with the uptrend in tourist arrivals. According to the NCSI report, as many as 491 hotel properties distributed across all star ratings were in operation around the Sultanate last year. The majority — numbering 348 properties — belonged to the category of one-star and unclassified hotels, guesthouses and hotel apartments.
Five-star properties totalled 26 in 2019, up from 11 in 2015, while four-star hotels grew modestly to 24 last year, up from 23 in 2015. Those in the 3-star category jumped from 27 in 2015 to 38 last year, while the one-star and other properties nearly doubled to 348 last year, up from 186 in 2016.
Hotel properties are distributed across all of the Sultanate’s governorates, with Muscat home to 179 of them, followed by South Al Sharqiyah (65), Al Dakhiliyah (56) Dhofar Governorate (33), North Al Sharqiyah (33) North Al Batinah (32), Al Buraimi (30), South Al Batinah (30), Al Wusta (13), Musandam (10) and Al Dhahirah (10).
Fazah Fort: Situated in the town of Liwa, Wilayat Liwa, Al Batinah Region, Fazah Fort dates back to many centuries and played