Salalah: The Khareef (autumn) season began yesterday in the Governorate of Dhofar, as it always does with effect from June 21, and will continue up to September 21. The number of visitors to the Governorate during last year Khareef stood at 433,639.
The public and private agencies are preparing to receive groups of tourists and visitors, ensuring that they are provided all required services and facilities.
The Governorate is one of the most favoured tourist destinations for many Omani and Gulf families who prefer to spend summer vacations amidst attractive nature and moderate weather.
The Salalah Tourist Festival, which will kick off on the second day of Eid Al Fitr and lasts up to September 6, is one of the key drivers for tourism during Khareef season. It includes a number of cultural, social, recreational, sports and marketing activities.
The Governorate of Dhofar is known for its rich tourism potential as it has many silver and soft sand beaches, mountains, valleys, plains and a desert that extends to the Empty Quarter, springs, natural water fountains and caves.
Salalah's agricultural plains are also known to produce many tropical plants, such as coconut, banana, papaya, sugar cane, besides it khirans (fjords) and natural sanctuaries.
The other major tourist attractions include Al Baleed Archaeological Site, Samhram Archaeological Park, historical forts in the wilayats of Taqah, Mirbat, Sadah and others.
Visitors may also visit Iteen Plain and Hamrir Plain, in addition to the main water springs, such as Razat, Jarzeez, Humran, Sahalnout, Athom and Darbat.
The National Centre of Statistics and Information, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Royal Oman Police, conducts an annual survey for the visitors during the June 21 to September 21 period each year to provide economic and social data that can be utilised by planners and decision makers.
The survey on Khareef Salalah visitors in 2013 pointed out that the number of visitors grew by 23.5 per cent in 2013 compared to 2012, with absolute numbers rising from 351,195 in 2012 to 433,639 in 2013.
The number of Omani visitors during Khareef Salalah last year stood at 298,749 or 68.9 per cent of the total number of visitors, compared to 211,042 or 60.1 per cent during 2012. When it comes to non-Omani Gulf visitors, UAE topped the list with 72,940 tourists or 16.8 per cent, followed by Saudis with 16,723 or 3.8 per cent, Kuwaitis with 3,510, Qataris with 3,449 and Bahrainis with 2,696.
The number of arrivals to Salalah through the Hareet land check point stood at 370,836 or 85.5 per cent of the total number of visitors, compared to 62,803 or 12.9 per cent through domestic and international air flights.