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Oman: advices from professionals to relaunch the destination

French visitors at 11% drop


Oman’s tourism office invited tour-operators to think about ways to relaunch the destination. The sultanate suffers from an amalgam with neighboring countries that stalls the shy desires of the French to visit the country.



Oman is attempting to boost its visitor rate on the French market. DR-OT Oman
Oman is attempting to boost its visitor rate on the French market. DR-OT Oman
Oman suffered greatly this year.

The Sultanate was hurt by the disaffection towards Muslim countries and amalgams with its neighbors, Yemen particularly.

The country had seduced 50,570 French travelers in 2014, a 6% increase, but struggled to reach 26,973 visitors between last January and July. Representing a drop of 11%.

The trends are quite different from the English, who remain stable (79,365 passengers from January to July) and the Germans, with a very small drop (34,766 passengers.)

As always, our citizens are showing their cowardice, despite the reassuring recommendations from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On its website, the entire country is in green except for the border with Yemen.

“The French are emotional and not very rational. Travel agencies only foster this sheep-like behavior,” states Jean-Paul Chantraine, CEO of Asia.

“We have to work on the safety aspect to break amalgams with surrounding countries. We must also multiply field trips to the location,” he adds.

Ways to relaunch the destination

Yet, the tourism office is making every possible effort to communicate on the destination.

It invited French professionals to visit its pavillon during the World Expo in Milan… and is multiplying educational tours.

“Many travel agents return enchanted. But when facing the client, they hesitate to offer Oman, preferring to sell easier countries. I, myself, did this test in an agency,” laments Rania Khodr, Director of Tourism Office in Paris.

Which is why, today, she tries to promote the destination directly to clients. Because only one trip out of four is sold by a tour-operator.

But Rania Khodr still took the opportunity of the visit from the State Secretary of Tourism, S.E. Maitha Al Mahrouqi, to invite professionals of the sector to a round table, in order to think about ways to relaunch the destination.

All unanimously recognized the qualities of the sultanate, but some believe that the country suffers from an image deficit in France.

“Oman would deserve to root clearer images in the minds of consumers that would reassure them. For example, we could communicate on religion, because its inhabitants are neither Sunnites or Shiites, but practice a third branch: Ibbadite Islam,” specifies Alain Capestan, Deputy Director-General of Voyageurs du Monde.

He also boasts about the country’s natural beauty, especially the desert, where he sends between 2,000 and 3,000 people every year. Oman is also endowed with a historical and cultural heritage that the French are fond of.

The government is investing in tourism

But the destination remains expensive (2,000 euros average spending) and has no ambition to attract mass tourism. “We are a five star destination and we want to welcome responsible and high-quality visitors,” expressed the State Secretary.

This sector is now the government’s priority, and it is investing a lot to touch these niches, from leisure to MICE, without forgetting the cruising sector.

214 cruises docked in Muscat’s harbor last year and it is expecting a 20% increase by next year. The country is also counting on corporate tourism, with the opening, by next year, of its new center of conventions, that cost one billion dollars.

Simultaneously, it wants to expand it seasonal sites by developing the city of Salalah in the south that has a cooler climate in the summer. A new terminal should be built there to increase capacities to 1 million passengers.

The airport of the capital, Muscat, is also being revamped and should soon be able to welcome 12 million passengers annually. As for accommodations, there are lots of hotel projects: 1,500 new bedrooms last year and 1,200 bedrooms anticipated for next year.

However, the destination still has efforts to make around its incoming agencies, of which most are based in Dubai. “It is important to have a nice office to secure the funds,” remarks Carole Ange, Director of Tapis Rouge.

“I changed partners several times because I was not very satisfied with their services,” adds Martine Santos, Director of Secrets de Voyages.

When aiming at high-end tourism, everything must be perfect. And the State Secretary of Tourism seems to understand that very well.

Written by Laury-Anne CHOLEZ translated by Joséphine Foucher the 13/11/2015
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Tags : Oman

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