Oman’s Ministry of Tourism has revealed that the Sultanate posted a significant 43.6 per cent growth in cruise ship tourists from January to December 2019 to reach 283,488 passengers from 193,467 recorded during the same period last year.
The Ministry attributed the surge to the government’s relevant initiatives, including infrastructural developments, and the ongoing and reinforced tourism campaigns that focus on Oman’s civilization, culture, heritage, diverse adventures, and popular attractions.
The Ministry said a total of 284 cruise ships, which will carry thousands of tourists from all over the world, are already scheduled to anchor at the Sultanate’s three main ports in season 2019/2020, namely Sultan Qaboos Port (162 cruise ships); Port of Khasab (75 cruise ships); and Port of Salalah (47 cruise ships). The highest arrivals are expected during the winter season that begins in October and ends in April.
The Ministry has been collaborating with relevant government and private sector entities and ship owners and operators to enhance cruise tourism in Oman as well as help develop the capability and efficiency of local ports to handle giant cruise ships. Part of the Ministry’s initiatives is faster license and permit application processes and approvals.
The local cruise industry is vital to attracting more international travelers to the Sultanate. Overall, the national tourism sector plays a crucial role in Oman’s economic diversification and growth.
Abdullah Saif Al Saadi, Head of cruise and charter flights, Ministry of Tourism, said: “We aim to attract international cruise ships as part of our overall travel and tourism campaigns. To achieve this, we have been improving our ports, implementing the best practices and international standards, and enhancing our facilities, to name a few. We are also planning to invest in the facilities of Sultan Qaboos Port to entice more cruise ships to make a stopover in Oman. Furthermore, we will continue to participate in relevant forums and exhibitions as well as carry out promotional campaigns in collaboration with leading cruise lines. We are happy that our efforts have already been paying off as evident in the rising number of cruise ship tourists who are coming into our shores.”
He added: “Apart from providing the necessary support to make the Sultanate an attractive and major stopover for giant cruise ships, the government has also made the licensing process easy and flexible. We are not stopping there. We have been organizing major entertainment activities for tourists arriving on board in cooperation with the local agents. Running traditional souqs to enable our visitors to experience first-hand the Omani traditions is one of these exciting activities.”
“The Ministry of Tourism is doing efforts to attract giant cruise ships in line with our national tourism campaigns. Cruise ships are an essential part of our efforts to promote winter tourism. For a long time, the Ministry has been coordinating with local authorities to ensure that the country’s ports remain capable of meeting the needs of cruise ships of all sizes. This year, we are confident that we will surpass our previous accomplishments thanks in part to the Ministry’s ongoing partnerships with relevant institutions to make Oman one of the world’s popular cruise ship destinations. By the end of 2019, Oman welcomed 283,844 cruise tourists. We expect the number to reach 300,000 in 2020,” he further stated.
To be part of the cruise ship itinerary, many countries negotiate with cruise ship companies worldwide. The move reflects this segment’s vital role and influence in boosting a country’s tourism industry. Additionally, cruise ship tourists are known to go back to a country they have visited before for an opportunity to explore longer its many beautiful places with their families.
In 2019, the giant Marella Discovery made a stopover in Oman for the third time. A total of 1,400 passengers – 700 arriving and 700 departing tourists – were exchanged via Muscat International Airport and Sultan Qaboos Port. The cruise ship is slated to come back to Oman for the fourth time on April 16 and 17, 2020, carrying with it 1,800 passengers. The passengers will be exchanged as well, with 900 arriving and 900 departing. This is also expected to promote winter tourism in Oman.
The large ship will make 27 stopovers in the different ports of the Sultanate during the 2020-2021 period as well. These are 16 visits to Sultan Qaboos Port; eight, Port of Khasab; and three, Port of Salalah.
Moreover, MSC company has been adding MSC Bellissima ship to Oman ports during this season 2019-2020. MSC Bellissima is the fifth cruise ship of MSC to make a stopover in Oman after MSC Lirica, Splenida, Magnifica, and Orchestra. During the winter season, MSC Cruises will carry out 49 visits to Sultan Qaboos Port, Khasab Port, and Salalah Port.
The cruise industry is expected to not only promote winter tourism but also bring immense revenue to the government, including income coming from cruise ship tourists who tour throughout the local cities.
According to the Ministry, the cruise market helps enhance local tourism, boost economic returns, and diversify the government’s sources of income.
The number of cruise ships visiting Salalah this year is expected to increase following the improvements at the Port of Salalah, which were made possible by the Ministry’s efforts and collaborations with cruise agents and other relevant organizations. The Ministry said 284 cruise ships will visit Oman during 2019- 2020 period.