China, Russia to drive tourism growth in 2011, says Oman

Oman plans to increase the number of tourists to the sultanate by seven percent this year, its head of tourism promotion said, driven by visitors from India, Russia and the Gulf states.

 “In 2010 we had 1.6 million tourists, [and we’re looking to increase that] by a minimum of seven percent in 2011,” said Salim Bin Adey Al Mamari, director general of tourism promotion for Oman.

Tourism operators in Oman are tying up with Dubai-based operators to market both destinations to wealthy Russians. State-owned carrier Oman Air plans to launch a direct flight to Moscow, in the second quarter of 2011.

“The number of tourists [from Russia] is not that big. We are trying to tackle that market because it is a [rich] market…if you bring in 100 [Russian tourists] it’s like bringing 1,000 from another country,” said Adey Al Mamari.

Visitors from India, a key source of foreign labour for the Gulf states, are expected to almost triple by 2015 to up to 100,000 a year.

“The number of travelers from India to Oman [represent] the highest [segment of travel] but they are not tourists. In terms of tourists they were around 30,000 in 2009, we’re looking to grow that by not less than seven percent in 2011 and by not less than 70,000-100,000 by 2015,” he said.

Oman, which generated 2.9 percent of its GDP from tourism in 2009, is spending around $8bn on property developments across the country in a bid to boost tourism. The Convention and Exhibition Centre, which is due for completion by the end of 2014, will include an auditorium, shopping mall, a business park and four hotel and serviced apartments.

In February, around 300 people in Oman took to the streets in Muscat to demand political reforms and better pay. The Gulf state’s leader responded to the protests by reshuffling the country’s cabinet and increasing salaries for national workers in the private sector by 43 percent.

Adey Al Mamari said the country’s tourism sector hadn’t been impacted by the unrest.

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