March 2, 2024

“Oman’s unique hospitality is often regarded as one of our national characteristics”

Under the slogan “Beauty Has An Address”, Oman’s Ministry of Heritage and Tourism is presenting the Sultanate’s wide tourism offer and cultural diversity as the Official Host Country of ITB Berlin this year

Oman boasts an impressive history spanning 5,000 years as well as diverse landscapes and opportunities to explore nature. H.E. Salim bin Mohammed Al Mahrouqi, Minister of Heritage and Tourism for the Sultanate of Oman, spoke with ITB Berlin news in an exclusive interview about the country’s developing tourism market.

How did Oman tourism and travel perform in 2023?
In total, four million tourists arrived in Oman in 2023, up from 2.9 million in 2022, a rise of 37.9%. Thanks to Oman’s diverse natural terrain and growing number of attractions, domestic tourism remained strong last year.

Adventure, eco and luxury tourism enjoyed particular success and are expected to continue to grow as a result of substantial investment in projects such as the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and Apartments, The Chedi in the Eastern Part of Oman, Al Jebal Al Akhdar Adventure Resort, the Janain Salalah agritourism project, the St Regis Al Mouj Muscat Resort and the recently announced Bandar Al Khairan Anantara Resort.  

Muscat’s Port Sultan Qaboos, Port of Salalah and Port of Khasab welcomed over 248,000 passengers from 142 cruise ships in 2023. This represented a year-on-year rise of 66.4% in terms of passengers and 91.8% in terms of ships. 

Oman is this year’s official ITB Berlin Host Country. What are you highlighting at the show?
We will be highlighting Oman’s unique, and may I say renowned, hospitality which is often regarded as one of our national characteristics. It is something that expresses itself in the heartfelt warmth visitors receive and in the genuine curiosity everyone has to learn more about the cultures of those who come to our shores. 

We will be making sure ITB attendees get a taste of this hospitality for themselves as we shine a light on our traditions with a variety of events.

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.

What are the fastest growing segments in the travel and tourism industry in Oman?
Our outdoor segment is growing very fast. The Sultanate of Oman has so much to offer in this regard—from hiking in the beautiful Al Hajar Mountains and canyoning in one of our 60 wadis to snorkelling and diving along our stunning coastline, much of which is practically untouched. 

What are the most important inbound markets? Which markets are you targeting specifically for growth?
The GCC states, India and Germany are our top three inbound markets. The GCC with 1.6 million visitors in 2023 made up 40% of all our visitors. This was followed by 610,000 from India, up 71% on 2022, and 231,000 from Germany, up 182%. Looking at Europe specifically, Germany, UK and Italy are the strongest countries for us. 

While our biggest growth market in 2023 was China, with a 273% rise on the year, we see a lot of potential for growth from Russia, Switzerland, Poland and Scandinavia.

Are there any particular events which travellers can look forward to in 2024?
We have a full and varied calendar of events throughout the year. For instance, there are the fabulous musical performances at the Royal Opera House Muscat while on the sporting side, there are lots of exciting competitions for runners and triathletes. The Omani coastal town of Sur is the Arab Tourism Capital 2024. We are thrilled to have this outstanding chance to showcase our rich heritage.

Looking to the future. What is your long-term vision and what are some of the key challenges that you foresee? What is your plan to overcome these challenges?
We have ambitious plans in place, with over €4 billion of investment funnelled into projects. These range from the construction of integrated tourism complexes and luxury resorts – places like the Envi Al Jabal Al Akhdar Ecolodge, Yiti’s Nikki Beach Resort and Spa and the Four Sesons Muscat at Marina Bandar Al Rowdha – to the preservation of heritage sites and historical monuments. 

I would like to emphasise 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. 

Oman highlights at ITB Berlin

The Sultanate of Oman will have a strong presence over all three days of ITB Berlin, with a number of exciting conferences and events. In addition to a stand of around 800 square metres in hall 2.2, the official host country will also have a presence in the Youth Travel and Economy Accommodation and Adventure Travel and Responsible Tourism segments in hall 4.1.

Tuesday 5 March

The official opening tour of ITB Berlin will take place this morning on the host country’s stand in hall 2.2 with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by the Minister of Heritage and Tourism of Oman, the Governing Mayor of Berlin, the Secretary-General of UN Tourism and the CEO of Messe Berlin.

12.45p.m. / Panel discussion
“How do we achieve NetZero in tourism?” 
Featuring H.E. Salim bin Mohammed Al Mahrouqi
Location: Lighthouse Stage  

“Omani Adventure Tourism – Experience the Journey of Discovery and Self-Actualisation” 
With the participation of Destination Management Companies (DMCs) from Oman
Location: Lighthouse Stage

Wednesday 6 March

“Re-Defining Visitor Experience: It is all About Authenticity”
H.E. Salim bin Mohammed Al Mahrouqi
Location: Destination Track – Hall 7.1, Blue Stage

The Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra concert
Philharmonie Berlin at 8 p.m. (tickets must be purchased)
Under the direction of Hamdan Al Shuaili

Thursday 7 March

“The Role of Gastronomy in Community Empowerment: Lessons from Oman”
Location: Hall 5.3, Hybrid Stage