Cruise tourism on the rise in Oman

The Ministry of Tourism in Oman is making efforts to attract tourist cruise ships to visit Oman. Cruise ships visiting Oman’s port during the year 2018-2019 has reached to 298, showing an increase of 106 compared to the year 2017-2018. While the number of cruise ships that arrived at Sultan Qaboos Port was 147 ships, it was 72 at Khasab port and 79 at Salalah port. 

The number of cruise ships visiting Oman in 2019-2020 is expected to reach 360, and the number of cruise tourists to reach to 220,000 in 2019.

Tourists who come mostly during the month of October to April, come to revel in Oman’s natural beauty and to soak up its culture and heritage.

The Ministry of Tourism organises several entertainment activities for the tourists arriving on board in cooperation with the local agents. The Ministry also opens up its traditional souqs for the guests so that they can have a first-hand experience of Omani traditions and its traditional industry.

Rowas bin Hafiz Al Rowas, Assistant Director General for Tourism Development and Investor Services, said that the cruise ships visiting Salalah port this year is expected to see a huge increase as a result of the efforts of the Ministry of Tourism along with Salalah Port and other organisations, tourist companies and cruise agents .

Al Rowas said that the cruise ship sector benefits from the tourism sector along with the local community. There is a considerable increase in their visits during winter season as they mostly dock at the Salalah port. These ships add value to the economy of the Sultanate in general and to the Dhofar governorate as well.  

Mohammed Al Dhahouri, Assistant Director of Internal Tourism in Musandam Governorate, said that cruise ships contribute to enhancing the added value of the tourism sector by contributing to the local product and activating the economic and tourism movement.

The port of Khasab is a tourist destination, which lies in the far north of Musandam. It overlooks the Gulf of Oman to the east and the Arabian Gulf to the north-west. The Strait of Hormuz is characterised by its winding coasts. The government intends to develop the port in an integrated manner, to serve the tourism sector and trade alike, and focus on the Khasab-Bukha coastal project.

Abdul Fattah, owner of Musandam Sea Adventure and Travel Company, shares the programme prepared by the company for tourists.

The company owns seven traditional vessels, including the old and the modern. They take tourists for day-long trips to the bays located in Musandam to visit the villages, watch dolphins and for swimming. It also organises diving and fishing trips, hiking mountains, as well as mountaineering.

The traditional Muttrah souq, near the Sultan Qaboos Port, is known for traditional crafts, clothes and pottery items used by the ancestors of the local people. At this port, tourists enjoy guided tours in Muscat and the nearby tourist areas of Oman.

Abdullah Al Saadi, head of the ships and cruise department, said that the Ministry was making efforts to promote cruise ships tourism both locally and internationally.

Talking about the major achievements of the shipping department of the Ministry during 2018, Al Saadi said that for the first time there was a cooperation with Marella Cruises and Travco company to receive tourists at Muscat Airport and to take them to the cruise ships at the port for maritime tours of Oman’s ports and other adjacent areas. He said that the first Spanish ship, Horizon, of Spanish Pullmantur company, headed to Sultan Qaboos Port and then to the ports of Khasab and Salalah.

Al Saadi welcomed the influx of tourist cruise ships to the ports of Oman including Sultan Qaboos Port and the ports Khasab and Salalah. He also said that more and more tourists are coming on these cruise ships to enjoy the beauty of the country and to know about its culture and heritage.

This edited article first appeared in Times of Oman.