Al Bustan Palace, Oman. 28 October 2014. Oman Air chief operating officer Abdulrahman al-Busaidy told the MEED Oman Tourism Hotel Day this morning that the airline aims to increase its fleet to 70 aircraft in its present 10-year plan from 40 now and that it will accept 13 new aircraft in 2015 alone.
He said that the number of passengers using Oman Air is forecast to rise to about 4.8m in 2014 from 4.7 million in 2013, but less than 20 per cent are flying directly to Oman.”
Al-Busaidy said this was partly due to the shortage of affordable hotel rooms.
“I hear some five star hotels have occupancy of 15 per cent and yet charge 90 riyals night,” Al-Busaidy said. “There is an opportunity here for the winter and summer to promote tourism. If we had decent rates we could attract people from the GCC who would come for a couple of days and go to Salalah.”
Al-Busaidy said that Oman Air has launched a hotel stopover programme that provides Oman Air passengers with affordable room rates. He called on more Omani hotels to join the programme.
“If hotels could invest in five hotels a night in our stopover hotels scheme, it would make a big difference,” Al-Busaidy said.
Al-Busaidy said that tourism is becoming more important to the Omani economy and that the government’s aiming for the industry to account for 12 per cent of GDP compared with 3 per cent at present. He said that this will require a fresh approach along the entire tourism supply chain.
One challenge is capacity limits at Muscat International Airport. He said he’s been told the first phase of the new airport should open in 2016. This will have capacity to handle 12 million passengers a year. Long-term plans call for capacity to be raised to 48 million passengers.
Al-Busaidy said efforts to promote tourism in Salalah have been undermined by complex customs and immigration regulations which mean tourists having to be checked through immigration in Muscat before going to Salalah.
“We are asking the Royal Oman Police (ROP) for immigration checks to be done in Salalah,” Al-Busaidy said.
“The Geman market is very promising,” Al-Busaidy said. “Last year, 7,000 passengers came from Germany on chartered flights to Salalah.”
Al-Busaidy would like to start direct flights from Frankfurt to Oman but said the problem is that Frankfurt airport has capacity shortages. He said that Oman Air’s plans call for the development of more daily services on key direct routes.
“Our plans for new routes include China, Europe and Eastern Europe and Vietnam,” Al-Busaidy said. “My ambition is to go to the US,”
“Another important market is India,” Al-Busaidy said. “India has a middle class population of 400 million and they like to take short trips. If we can get just 1 per cent of that market, we can get a good number.”
Al-Busaidy said that the ROP has agreed to provide visas on arrival to visitors from the Indian subcontinent with the exception of Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Al-Busaidy said that the Omani enclave in Musandam has enormous tourism potential.
“Khassab is lovely but undeveloped,” he said. “We have decided to increase flights to Khassab.”
Sponsors of MEED Oman Projects Forum
Oman Development Bank is SME financial partner. AECOM is bronze sponsor. Drake & Scull International and Hill International are conference sponsors. Al Madina Insurance, Acciona and EHAF are exhibiting. Rotary Engineering is lanyard sponsor. Networking sponsors are Galfar and Sarooj.
The Oman Tourism Day was organised in partnership with the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC).