The clubbing of public holidays with the regular weekend can help stimulate the local and small entrepreneurs in the tourism sectors, especially the car rentals, food and beverage outlets, and adventure activities operators. In some countries, combining a public holiday with regular weekend is called holiday economics to boost domestic tourism. “In the GCC markets, the local population have the tendency to travel outside the country or neighbouring markets for various reasons, which is difficult to be arranged at a short notice. Extended weekends will certainly help local tourism provided we have the right infrastructure in place,” said an official of a leading tourism company.
He said there is a no specifically-listed policy, but what we have seen in recent years is that the public holidays do get clubbed with the normal weekends. Mohammed al Balushi, a car rental operator, said that the timing of the announcement of holidays is equally important. “There has to be a fine balance to keep the element of surprise. The local residents and expatriates should only be given enough time to plan a shorter outing within the country, rather than spending money in markets elsewhere.”
Prakash Shetty, an expatriate, felt there should be new initiatives for the businesses to benefit from domestic tourism. “What happens in Oman generally is that people visit wadis, mountains and beaches with a group of friends with their own food and spend nothing, except museums, these natural attractions do not charge the visitors.” Wadi Bani Khalid received over 10,000 visitors but the amount spent by tourists are really minimal. “Only tourists who come under a package from tour operators take food or snacks from local restaurants,” according to a restaurant owner.
The encouraging signs for local tourism are that the occupancy level at Masirah Island Resort was nearly 100 per cent during the holidays while attractions such as the Wahiba Sands, Wadi Tiwi, and Wadi Sahab, Turtle Reserve also received tourists in large numbers. A Ministry of Tourism official told the Observer that places with improved restroom and refreshment facilities certainly outperform other attractions. It may be also noted that the Ministry of Tourism issued 113 licences for Omani tourist guides in 2018, including 54 general guides, 44 local tour guides and 14 temporary guides.
Meanwhile, the ports in Oman received 104,000 cruise visitors until the end of February 2019, with an increase of 45.7 per cent compared to the same period of 2018.Near Muscat, the three to five-star hotels in the South Al Sharqiyah Governorate received a total of 9,371 of guests until the end of February 2019, an increase of 130 per cent compared to the same period of 2018.