The coronavirus pandemic in the Sultanate has caused direct losses to the tourism sector that are estimated at half billion Omani Rial as of the end of September this year, according to Maithaa bint Saif al Mahrouqiyah, Tourism Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism.
During the 20th press conference held on Thursday she pointed out that the cancellation of visa requirements for tourists hailing from different countries will encourage foreigners to visit Oman and speed up the recovery of the tourism sector.
The ministry endorsed a ‘Recovery Plan’ that included re-opening of some tourism activities, she added.
“Besides considering the safety of the tourism sector against risks posed by the COVID-19, the ministry’s Recovery Plan will enhance the sustainability of the human capital, support local communities, foster tourism communication and promotion, and brink back investment in the tourism sector, said Al Mahrouqiyah, adding that details of the plan will be unveiled later.
She also explained that the quarantine period for people arriving into the Sultanate has been shortened and that “the timeframe has been substituted by the PCR test and health isolation till proof of being negative result is furnished by the tested person on visit to the Sultanate.”
She commended the government’s consent to re-open activities and provide incentives to the private sector as a step in the right direction that assisted the sector to stand firm, despite the crisis, and secure the stability of jobs of not less than 15,700 people who work in the tourism sector.
The Under-secretary explained that the ministry waived entry visas for citizens from 103 countries to encourage tourism activity. This comes in as a move to support tourism and shore up its struggling economy.
“In line of the current situation, the Supreme Committee endorsed the reopening of touristic activities and places, and conditioned a number of measures such as, reducing quarantine period for the visitors to the Sultanate, have PCR test upon arrival, stick to health isolation at the tourist facility until a negative result appears,” she added, noting that the ministry has updated the precautionary measures guide for hotel establishments and travel and tourism offices and agencies. It also issued another guideline for tourist places.
Losses of the sector automatically were reflected in hotel occupancy in the Sultanate as the total revenues of Omani hotels in the three-to-five-star category fell by 60.2 per cent to RO 70.70 million until the end of October 2020 compared to RO 177.72 million for the same period in the previous year.
Hotels occupancy rates declined by 50.1 per cent to reach 26.1 per cent until the end of October 2020 against 52.3 per cent for the same period in 2019, according to the latest monthly statistics released by the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI).
Meanwhile, the total number of guests in Omani hotels dropped by 53.9 per cent in the first 10 months of 2020 to stand at 646,841 guests, compared to 1.40 million guests for the same period in 2019.
Among the nationalities, Omanis constituted the maximum number of visitors, reaching 337,687 guests. This was followed by 164,873 European guests and 47,643 Asian tourists until the end of October 2020, the NCSI revealed.
Fazah Fort: Situated in the town of Liwa, Wilayat Liwa, Al Batinah Region, Fazah Fort dates back to many centuries and played