“Following the Royal Order, a special committee was set up, chaired by Minister of Tourism
H E Ahmed bin Nasser bin Hamad al Mehrzi and Undersecretary Maitha al Mahrooqi as the vice-chairman, to oversee the developments. It also included undersecretaries and officials from other ministries and authorities,” said Khalid Musallem al Rawas, director general (Dhofar), Ministry of Tourism (MoT), and a member of the committee.
“This committee worked very hard in the short time to ensure that the visitors had a trouble-free experience during the festival. In coordination with all the concerned departments, including the ministries of Commerce and Industry, and Oil & Gas, ROP and the Central Bank of Oman, we made sure that there was no shortage of services and facilities, unlike last year when a huge shortage of petrol and accommodation was reported.”
Rawas said that development funds were used in uplifting infrastructure and raising the quality of services not only in Salalah but also the entire region. “You will notice the arrangements from Nizwa to Salalah if you travel by road. We have built new rest areas, refurbished the old ones; installed new portable toilets and renovated the old ones; set up information centres; provided for other utility needs such as ATMs; and enhanced the security arrangements through the entire stretch.”
Another highlight this year was the establishment of the ‘Traveller Oasis’. “The moment you come down from the mountains and enter Salalah [by road], at the foot of the mountain you’ll notice the ‘oasis’. It is essentially a tourist information centre that offers all the services that a traveller would need such as booking accommodation, renting a car, telecom facilities, ATMs, restaurants and food stalls,” Rawas said. “This concept was unique and has received a very positive response from the visitors. The ‘Traveller Oasis’ will be a permanent fixture henceforth.”
Rawas added that the entertainment arena, made for the first time on the Al Mughsayl beachfront, was also a huge draw for visitors this year.
With the khareef season over, Rawas stressed on the need for developing Salalah as a tourist destination round the year. “The MoT is putting in a lot of efforts to promote tourism round the year targeting different markets – GCC travellers during khareef and international markets throughout the year. Several five-star hotels and resorts have come up in the recent past with many more in the pipeline. Besides, we have raised the quality of services and infrastructure.”
The plan appears to be tasting some success as well. “Since 2006, we are getting thousands of visitors from the Scandinavian countries through direct chartered flights from Stockholm, Sweden during the winter season (September-December). Germany is going to start a similar service this year. Besides, the number of tourists visiting on luxury cruise ships is increasing with every passing year,” said Rawas.
The number of visitors to Salalah in the khareef season, which concluded on Friday, had topped 426,000 on September 11 and is expected to break the 2008 record of 450,511 as the final figures are compiled in the next few days.