Muscat: More than 2.1m tourists visited the Sultanate in 2013, according to government figures, up by 7.8 per cent compared to previous year. Oman is moving speedily to accommodate rising visitor numbers by rolling out several hotels and infrastructure projects.
Tourism made a direct contribution of $2.5b to the economy in 2013, equivalent to three per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), according to a report released in April by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
The council's Travel and Tourism Economic Impact 2014 report about Oman said it expected that figure to rise by 10.2 per cent this year, after which it anticipates an average annual increase of 5.4 per cent throughout the following decade.
Once investment, the supply chain and induced income impacts were included, tourism's overall contribution to Oman's economy last year reached $5b, and is forecast to hit $10.1b by 2024, the council said. By this time, the WTTC concluded, the industry should account directly for 4.4 per cent of national employment.
Oman witnessed an increase in domestic business and leisure travel on the back of rising economic momentum. The domestic travel component accounted for more than half of all direct spending, according to the council's findings.
Analysts have pointed out that while the Sultanate might have a less glamorous image than some of its neighbours, the country's vast and diverse geography, which includes deserts, mountains and 3,400 kilometres of coastline, is nonetheless eliciting significant interest.
Improvements to Oman's transport infrastructure and connectivity is playing a key part in supporting tourism growth.
Bahaa Hefzalla, marketing director with the Muriya Tourism Development Company, believes that upgrades to Oman's airports, coupled with the opening of new facilities in regional hubs, have helped broaden country's appeal.
"There are now more direct flights to Salalah from major GCC cities and more frequent flights from Muscat to destinations around Oman," Hefzalla told the Oxford Business Group. "This is opening many doors for tourism companies and developers. The demand is, well, skyrocketing."
The Ministry of Tourism last year sanctioned the development of 54 new hotel resorts across the country in 2014, which will increase the number of rooms available by almost 3,000.
Twenty-four new hotels opened their doors in 2013, bringing the number to 282, while room numbers reached 14,400, marking a 12.3 per cent year-on-year increase, the ministry said in June.
However, while the industry is forging ahead in many ways, a skills gap in the labour market may curb growth. Hezfalla told the OBG that a shortage of local, trained professionals was forcing operators to recruit staff from abroad.