Oman should set up a tourism and convention bureau to market itself as a tourism hub, Tanfeedh has said.
“The bureau should handle digital marketing, and market-based representation, and also establish an e-concierge platform which will be funded by tourism tax,” it observed.
Tanfeedh also felt that there was a need to activate the tourism development fund. “This initiative aims to activate the tourism development fund that is stipulated in the tourism law. It will have various sources of funding, primarily tourism tax, and will be utilised for tourism development and promotion activities,” it said.
According to Tanfeedh, private management companies should be hired to take over heritage sites and protected areas to develop a year-round calendar of events, create iconic tourism projects, and facilitate delivery of ITCs, hotels, and themed attractions.
Tanfeedh also said cluster plans for Musandam, Nizwa, Muscat and Sur should be brought online as quickly as possible.
Other measures suggested by the Tanfeedh labs are introducing labour solution packages, extending lease options, introducing easier visa processes for new target markets, establishing a centralised infrastructure board, and activating a tourism development fund.
The most challenging issues in the tourism sector, Tanfeedh stated,were the complex and lengthy processes of approvals, applications, and licences for new and existing projects. “Also, there is a paucity of innovative tourism products, services and activities capable of attracting more tourists,” it said.
It also pointed out that there was limited co-ordination between government bodies, especially with regard to tourism planning and land allocation for tourism investment.
“There is also limited interest from Omani youth in being employed in the tourism sector,” Tanfeedh believed.
Travel agents and hoteliers welcomed Tanfeedh’s proposals. “We need more tourists from abroad especially when oil prices are plummeting,” Lohithakshan Kizhakkayil, an official at New Star International Travel and Tours LLC, said.
Others commented that expanding the visa-on-arrival scheme to more countries would be a goodidea to attract tourists.
“The visa system has to be simplified and relaxed to woo tourists from abroad,” Sudhakar Rao, a travel consultant, said.
One leading hotelier, who did not wish to be named, however, injected a note a caution. “We would like to wait and see the proposals in detail before we comment,” he said.