Tag Archives: Adventure

Alternative Tourism Strategies In The Sultanate Of Oman

The Sultanate of Oman is a country rich in Heritage and culture with a vast array of tourism attractions and natural beauty; making for a true Arabian experience. Yet, when holiday makers hear or think about Oman, the thoughts are often associated with a wealthy Oil rich country and not that of a holiday destination. This is where the need for a radical boost in Omani tourism stems from.

The Ministry of National Economy conducted a survey for both inbound and outbound tourism in 2001 and 2002. The results showed that in 2002, Oman received just over 1.1 million arrivals, of which only 35% were holiday markers. In the governments economic summary in 2003 ‘vision for Oman’s Economy; Oman 2020’ it was noted that Oil currently provided 40% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), however by 2020 it is expected that it will fall to 20%, as Oman is not as rich in Oil as its neighboring gulf countries. The government is therefore seeking alternative sectors for economic growth and Tourism has been selected as one of the sectors.

At 1.7% of GDP the tourism industry has a lot of development to do, if it is to compensate for a lack of Oil in the Economy. Prior to the 1970’s Oman was a closed and isolated economy, therefore new policies are encouraged to educate the world on its tourism gems. As a way forward, the government established the Tourism Ministry in 2004, to help address these issues.

Oman boasts a diverse range of well known tourist attractions such as archaeology, modern history, culture, traditional souks (Arabian markets) and architecture. The architecture in Oman ranges from forts to castles built by the Portuguese who colonised Oman for over a century until 1650. It seems evident that tourists are not aware of the other gems Oman has to offer, such as scuba diving and ecotourism.

I sought to speak to tourists at one of the grandest and first six-star hotels in Oman the Shangri-La Resort & spa. An English family stated the reason for their trip was they felt Dubai (their former holiday destination) had become too commercialised and crowded; Oman offered them a more relaxing holiday experience, with its vast beaches and hospitable natives. This is a unique selling point for Oman as the Tourism Ministry is focusing on quality rather than quantity of tourists, therefore attracting those that wish to relax in beautiful surroundings whilst respecting local customs. Oman also has an advantage over other gulf countries, with its comparatively temperate climate.

On the other hand, a family with differing interests were from Germany, as it happens they arrived in Oman on the spur of the moment and were not in fact aware of all the country had to offer. I then proceeded to tell them about one of Oman’s little Gems, watching the Turtles nesting in the Wilayat of Sur; they were intrigued and keen to make a trip there. As these tourists would pay for sightseeing and ecotourism trips in addition to staying at hotels, they are therefore the market segment Oman should focus on; those that wish to experience the vast richness of the natural surroundings of Oman.

According to the inbound Tourism survey , 2002, some general figures on the average expenditure of tourists in Oman are as follows: The average tourist in Oman spends 83 Omani Riyals (OMR) equivalent to $215 USD. Europeans spend 147 OMR, Asians 81 OMR, Gulf cooperative countries 59 OMR, other Arab nations 78 OMR and the remaining tourists spend 152 OMR (equivalent to $380, $209, $152, and $201 USD respectively). It is hoped, that by diversifying the tourism attractions, Oman will encourage more tourists with a higher disposable income; yielding a higher average expenditure.

With the expansion of new hotels and developments in Oman like the Wave, the country will be able to accommodate for an increase in tourists and thus the demand for accommodation, spa’s, golf courses and restaurants. The Wave is one of the largest developments in Muscat costing $900 million USD and is scheduled to open in 2008. It will be an extremely luxurious residential and tourist area, comprising of a golf course with 505 luxury villas located around it and around the beach, luxury condominiums, apartments and luxury hotels. It will also include a marina with a Yacht Club and moorings for 250 boats, a marina village with retail outlets, restaurants and an international market.

Although the wave is the biggest development in Oman, there are several other similar ones and no doubt many more to be developed in the future; thus accommodating for both expatriates and tourists.

Accommodating tourists in not an issue, however, keeping them entertained and gaining new holiday makers that would not have considered Oman, remains an issue. It seems the majority of tourists in Oman come to enjoy the relaxation aspect of the country, but if there was more of a focus on additional activities or even adventure activities, there could be a greater influx of tourism in the country.

The Tourism Ministry has sought new strategies to promote tourism by focusing on the ecotourism and adventure tourism sectors. By focusing on the potential for adventure tourism such as rock climbing, bouldering, diving, camping and also on ecotourism, we find Oman provides the perfect setting for those seeking adventure.

Rock climbing and bouldering Tourists coming from Europe will benefit from the warm climate for a climbing destination. With more than 160 climbs for all levels and with many unclimbed mountain limestone; it is the ultimate climbing experience.

Rock climbers can climb throughout Oman with its mountainous geography; more specifically they can take to the Musandam peninsula or Wadi Dhum in Nizwa (a few kilometers from Jebel Misht) which is both the highest cliff in Arabia and an established rock climbing arena. It is both an exciting and intriguing experience as the most remote Musadami settlements are accessible only by sea. The Musadami region with its sheltered fjords is a fantastic canoeing destination; it is also a fantastic diving destination. Alternatively, for those seeking diving destinations closer to Muscat, the majority of hotel resorts offer scuba diving. For those that require lessons the dive centre with its private secluded beach, runs PADI courses and also have several trips a day to the most beautiful diving spots. Alongside the specialised activities, tourists can enjoy water sports such as Jet skiing at most hotels.

Ecotourism is prevalent and protected in Oman; Oman is cited by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) as a country with one of the best records in environmental conservation. Bird watchers will love Al Wusta with more than 130 species of bird; an estimated 372 species of bird nest or migrate through Oman.

Tourists that are looking for a new experience can make the trip to the Ra’s Al Hadd peninsula, located in the Wilayat of Sur in the Sharqiya region. Oman is a nesting area for green turtles in the Indian Ocean and in Sur you will be able to witness the protected Green turtle as it lays its eggs, or if you’re lucky you will see some hatchlings. Sur is the migration destination for 6000-13000 turtles that make their annual journey, from the East African Coast, the Red Sea to the Arabian Gulf. Additionally, Oman has a number of exotic and rare animals such as the Arabian oryx, the Arabian wolf, the gazelle, the leopard, the caracal lynx, taher and the striped hyena.

With the new strategies from the Tourism Ministry supported by the government, Oman should be well on its way to an increase, even doubling Tourism by 2010; resulting in an increase in employment opportunities in Oman by creating new jobs from construction to catering. The Omani infrastructure will be able to support the tourists and Oman’s sense of identity will not be harmed by the government’s approach of quality rather than quantity. By creating a unique mix of a tourism product for those seeking culture and adventure, Omani tourists will benefit from a truly Arabian experience.

Helpful Hints For Your Zip Line Adventure

Zip lines can now be found everywhere from the back woods to amusement parks. Why the zip line explosion? Because it is the closest thing to flying without needing wings!

Here we are going to focus on how to prepare for a zip line experience in a natural setting, not the packaged amusement park type. The best zip line experiences allow you so soar through the treetops and experience nature from a point of view few people have seen. We suggest that you bring:

– Clothing that is comfortable, appropriate for the weather and that you won’t mind getting a bit dirty.
– Work gloves (many zip line operator will provide you with these, check ahead of time).
– A water bottle.
– Sunscreen and lip balm (SPF 15+ please).
– Bug repellent – you are visiting their world and they get a bit curious.
– A small camera.
– A light backpack.
– Closed toe shoes that are secure on your feet. If a shoe falls off, it may be very difficult to get down to retrieve it and dangerous to go without it. Bottom line – your guide may get grumpy when they have to figure out how to get it back!

Remember, you will be high off the ground in a natural environment. Pay close attention to your guides as they will not only make sure you have a great time, but also will keep you safe. They will explain how to properly fit your helmet and harness. If you are not 100% clear on their use, please ask! They will also explain safety procedures on the course. Some of them may seem silly (like calling out commands and responses) but they are vitally important to your safety. Do them exactly as instructed, every time. You may also learn how to slow yourself on some lines.

Most zip line adventures take place rain or shine so be prepared to get hot and/or wet. If lightning is in the area, you will probably leave the course until it has passed so if the forecast calls for storms, plan for extra time.