The South Asia Travel and Tourism Exchange (SATTE) held at Pragati Maidan during January 29-31, was attended by representatives from tourism ministries of various countries around the world, including Malaysia, Thailand, Macau, Singapore and others. We spoke with Lubaina Sheerazi, Country Manager, Oman Tourism, to understand what makes India important to them as a travel market.
How relevant is India in Oman’s travel and tourism market?
Oman is now looking at India quite strongly as a source market. I see the enthusiasm is very different from what it used to be… It’s a lot more when it comes to sourcing out of India. Which means, we also come as a far stronger entity when we come here (to SATTE). I need support (from) private sectors – the hoteliers, the DMCs, the attractions – to come together; and they are here (now).
What are you doing to encourage Indian tourists to visit Oman?
I realised that despite the fact that Oman is just about two and a half hours away from India, there was a general lack of awareness and visibility or rather lack of awareness in terms of Oman as a leisure destination. There was no wow factor for Indians. That was the biggest challenge that I had. But there was a reason behind it. Oman has marketed itself more in the European markets for more than a decade, so UK, Germany, France are really the primary source markets. We identified Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai as our primary markets. We educated them, we familiarised them with the destinations. So, we took them to Oman and got them to experience Oman. And we also communicated to the consumer directly, through advertisements, on-ground experiences, info-marketing, etc.
Oman is not a destination for everybody, it’s not a mass-market destination for sure. So, only meant for the evolved traveller – who’s seen a fair amount of the world, who’s well-travelled, looking at more authentic experiences, seen Europe, USA, Australia, New Zealand, and done the whole Far East-South East Asia, has grown to be a mature traveller. Because what Oman offers is a very authentic Arabian experience. So, very very different from Dubai in that sense. And people didn’t really know all of that.
We’ve (now) also gone into Pune, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. There’s still a lot of work to be done.
And, in the last two years the kind of MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions) business we’ve seen is very encouraging. Another area we’ve diversified into is destination weddings.
Which destinations would you recommend to prospective travellers?
So, Muscat for sure because that’s your point of entry and exit. It’s typically a 2-3 night destination and people who go to Muscat generally like to spend time at the Grand Mosque – they love the food there, there’s also the Al Alam Palace, people also enjoy dolphin watching. A lot of people go to Oman only to dive and Muscat has a lot of dive sites.
People also enjoy catching a performance at the Royal Opera House in Muscat – it’s stunning, state-of-the-art structure where they play performances from all over the world. The beaches, the old capital of Nizwa has a lot of great monuments and there’s a Souk there too, Wahiba sands – if you want high-end luxury and something rustic and bedouin. A lot of people, especially with family and children, love to do a night at the turtle reserve.