Muscat: IATA data for 2012 has confirmed a record year for international passenger arrivals to Muscat International Airport. Muscat recorded 2.6 million arrivals, an increase of 8% from 2011. The 2011 data also shows a 25% increase in passenger arrivals to Salalah (Oman's second-largest city in Dhofar). These arrivals are in addition to increased road activity and steady cruise-ship arrivals.
Maitha Al Mahrouqi, Undersecretary of Oman's Ministry of Tourism, said, "The IATA figures reaffirm that our brand and tactical campaigns, backed by aligned tourism and aviation strategies, are working with Oman Air making a major contribution."
The IATA data shows that the number of arrivals from the established inbound markets of the UK, Germany and Australia and New Zealand remained steady, while arrivals from France and Belgium declined, and those from Italy (18%), Switzerland (115%) and the Netherlands (119%) jumped steeply. Among GCC countries, the strongest growth was from Saudi Arabia (33%), followed by Kuwait (22%) and Qatar (8%). The UAE, Oman's second largest inbound market, recorded a 3% increase.
Maitha said, "We are working on how to grow our key market segments. Our key message is that Oman is a unique and authentic Arabic destination, with ingredients that make it a 'must see' destination. We expect our stopover campaign will be very attractive to new and experienced travellers who have not had the opportunity to visit Oman."
She added, "The big picture is good. There is strong demand from Europe despite the financial crisis. Also, we are experiencing strong air services and road touring numbers from the Gulf states. Our resorts and hotels tell us that 2012-13 winter-business levels are at record highs."
Oman's initiatives in 2012 included a global awareness campaign on BBC Worldwide television and BBC.com; an industry-backed stopover campaign with Oman Air (1 Free Night in Oman); the Muscat Arab Tourism Capital 2012 campaign; heavily discounted tourism visas to attract short-break and stopover arrivals; and ongoing investment in iconic activities that showcase Oman's unique cultural heritage and environment, such as the Royal Opera House Muscat and events such as the Tour of Oman.
For 2013, the Ministry will be investing in its global awareness campaign — Beauty has an address. The campaign is linked to trade, media and consumer campaigns managed through Oman Tourism's international offices.
In addition, the Ministry is looking to form partnerships with major travel agencies interested in developing stopover visits to Oman, which is also improving its profile in business tourism with the construction of the 3,000-seat Muscat Convention and Exhibition Centre. This centre is expected to open in 2017.