Muscat: Hotels and travel agents have welcomed the Sultanate’s decision to once again issue tourist visas, saying it will provide a needed boost to their businesses, which have been strongly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision to resume issuing tourist visas was announced yesterday, by the Supreme Committee to deal with COVID-19.
According to the decision, tourists will be allowed only to come through groups organised by hotels and tourism companies.
Oman had stopped issuing all types of visas in March this year.
Faiyaz Khan, general manager for Travel Point, a travel agency in Oman, welcomed the decision to once again issue tourist visas, but said it would take time for confidence to return to people who planned on travelling overseas.
“We have received a lot of requests from travellers in other GCC countries, as well as the European markets, but we could not process any of their travel plans because the government was not issuing any tourist visas,” he said.
“This announcement is a very welcome piece of news that will bring a lot of relief to travel agents and hoteliers in the country.”
He added: “It will take time for travellers to gain trust in travel, because the COVID-19 pandemic has really changed all of our lives, and despite all the precautionary measures taken both here and in their country of origin, they will still be wary about the possibility of infection. I would advise every visitor to Oman to take a PCR test at the time of departure, or subject themselves to one here.
“Another issue for tourists exiting the country after their visit is that they will need to quarantine once they arrive at their final destination,” Khan said.
“This will be a big deterrent for them, because they will not want to come here to spend a few days, only to then spend two weeks or so in isolation once they go back home. Unless there is an exception provided to tourists when they return home, or the quarantine restrictions are eased, it will take some time for tourism to pick up in many parts of the world.”
This was something Siraj Memon, cluster director of sales and market for Anantara’s hotels in Oman, agreed with, although he expected a positive response to this in the first quarter of 2021.
“The quarantine rules might be a big deterrent for some, because tourists might not be keen if they have to spend time in isolation either during or after their vacation,” he revealed. “That being said, though, this decision is a good one and I am sure it will be welcomed by all hotel operators in the country.
“We can now expect to see a resumption of tourists from our target regional markets, namely our neighbouring countries and the rest of the GCC – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, as well as the UAE, which is one of our main markets, because Oman has the sort of landscape and weather that the other countries simply don’t have.”
He went on to say: “We continued to receive enquiries from other parts of the world, primarily Europe, because people from that part of the world really enjoy spending their winters here, which is why I think we will all see business pick up in early 2021.”