Rugged mountains, desert, pristine beaches and coral reefs and or course a wealth of history and tradition, there’s more to travel in Oman than you might expect.
This month London hosted World Travel Market (WTM) one of the world's most important travel events. The BOS ran our own fully booked tourism event alongside this which highlighted Oman as an adventure travel destination – leaving many of our audiences (and staff) more than ready to hop on a flight and experience some of Oman’s many natural beauty spots and outdoor experiences. We also had the privilege of interviewing H.E Azzan Qassim Al Busaidi, Oman’s Undersecretary of the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, who was in London attending this year’s WTM.
In this article we lead with His Excellency’s insights on the future of tourism in Oman. We also summarise some of the top sites and experiences introduced by our event partners Four Agency communications, Wild Frontiers adventure travel company and Mark Evans, desert explorer and recent Oman Outward Bound Executive Director.
Insights on the future of tourism in Oman with H.E Azzan Qassim Al Busaidi
BOS: This month London hosted World Travel Market (WTM) one of the world's most important travel events. What were your main highlights from visiting the WTM this year?
H.E: I have to say I was particularly pleased to see the Ministers’ Summit place the spotlight on how tourism and education policies can empower individuals and communities, drive innovation, foster responsible practices and support the resilience and success of our sector.
BOS: The need for a sustainable approach to tourism and a concern for the impact tourism can have on a country’s own traditions was a talking point at both WTM and our own BOS event. What are your thoughts on this in relation to tourism in Oman?
H.E: The empowerment of communities – and the opportunities this opens-up for individuals - is something that is incredibly important to us at the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism. With their living traditions, our communities play, and will continue to play, an enormously important role in keeping our tourism offer authentic, sustainable and inclusive. Misfat Al Abriyeen and Nizwa are perfect examples of how this has already been achieved. They are places that offer visitors the chance to genuinely experience our culture and heritage through ecosystems of accommodation, art and folklore. I am enormously proud to tell you that these attractions have been developed by the communities themselves. The Ministry’s role has simply been facilitation and promotion. Given the success of this, we are looking to develop a chain of tourism experiences that genuinely expresses the vibrant variety of our heritage and culture along a route that runs from Khasab in the north all the way down to Salalah in the south.
BOS: How is Oman’s tourism sector set to develop in the next few years?
H.E: We have ambitious plans in place, with over £4 billion of investment funneled into 360 projects. These range from the construction of integrated tourism complexes and luxury resorts, places like the Envi Al Jabel Al Akhdar Ecolodge, Yiti’s Nikki Beach Resort & Spa and the Mandarin Oriental Muscat to the preservation of heritage sites and historical monuments. And we currently have some 40 adventure projects in progress - from zip lines and cable cars through to mountain trails and campsites.
I should like to emphasize that when we make plans for tourism development, we are fully committed to sustainable practices and as all this takes shape, we are mindful of the responsibility we have to preserve Oman’s natural beauty and protect our globally significant treasure chest of biodiversity – a heritage we are enormously proud of.
[Readers can find more out about Oman’s globally significant biodiversity on 6 December at the BOS/ONHL 2023 Oman Natural Heritage Lecture, Royal Geographical Society & online].
BOS: In Q1 2023, the Middle East was the best tourism performer worldwide, registering a 15% increase in tourism arrivals compared to 2019 ("Jet, Set, Go" research report by HSBC). What unique experiences can Oman offer tourists that other Gulf countries can't?
H.E: Starting with our stunning natural beauty, from rugged mountains and desert to pristine beaches and coral reefs, Oman offers an unparalleled visitor experience. Add to this the country's rich biodiversity, variety of animal, bird and marine life and a unique range of flora and fauna. Then consider Oman’s fascinating history and culture reflected in incredible architecture, crafts, music, and cuisine, living traditions that are brought within reach in our ancient villages as well as at our numerous historical and cultural sites. It is a potent mix.
Drilling down, I think diversity and authenticity are really the key words in terms of why Oman offers such a distinct visitor experience. The range of things to see and do is truly outstanding, from adventure sports such as trekking, rock climbing, kite-surfing and scuba diving to cultural experiences such as festivals, gala performances, our five UNESCO World Heritage sites and more. And we should not forget that Oman has become a hub for luxury tourism with world-class hotels and resorts offering the ultimate in exclusivity and relaxation. Of course, the warmth of the welcome here, our hospitality is something very special that fosters an unforgettable connection – a gift for life, if you will.
A full version of this interview will be available in the BOS 2024 Annual Review, to receive a copy sign-up for BOS membership.
Tours to Oman with Wild Frontiers
Oman Desert Adventure: Wahiba Sands & Empty Quarter (Group Tour): Escape the modern world and immerse yourself in the vast desert scapes with their shifting sands, Empty Quarter and forts whilst enjoying the wild camping experience.
Northern Oman: Wadis, Mountains & Coasts (Group Tour): Soak up the highlights of Northern Oman as you travel along coastal roads and through ancient ports to the majestic landscapes of the Hajar Mountains, discovering tranquil oases, historic forts and welcoming communities along the way.
Arabian Deserts of Oman: From camping on the beaches of the Gulf of Oman to exploring the endless dunes of the Empty Quarter, this 11 day itinerary offers a wonderful variety of epic landscapes and unique experiences that will leave you coming back for more.
Classic Oman: An enthralling mix of the best of Northern Oman; wild beaches, remote deserts, charismatic towns and majestic mountains. A varied tour that should appeal to those wanting a bit of adventure but also a relaxing escape.
Complete Oman: Experience the huge variety of sights that Oman can offer. You’ll travel from the Fjords of the Musandam to the rolling deserts of the Empty Quarter via enchanting mountain villages and windswept wild beaches.
Find more out about Wild Frontiers group and tailor-made tours to Oman here.
More Oman Natural Heritage Events:
Discover more about Oman’s natural heritage at our upcoming events:
Full BOS events listings here.
Books mentioned at our BOS tourism event:
Plus, BOS members can access 600+ books from and about Oman in English and Arabic at our onsite reference library