Tourism continuing to drive growth at Oman Airports
The start of 2023 has seen passenger numbers at Oman Airports returning close to the levels seen in the first months of 2020, and with over 3.3 million passengers passing through the country’s airports in the first quarter of the year, and with growth continuing into the second quarter, it’s set to be another busy year with passenger numbers projected to be close to pre-pandemic levels.
Tourism has always been an integral part of the Omani economy, and annual tourism numbers pre-pandemic had grown to almost 3.5 million by 2019. In spite of the travel restrictions that were in place for a large part of the year, 2022 showed a strong recovery with visitor numbers for the year at almost 3million. The Middle East and Europe continued to be the two key tourism source markets, however numbers from India also recovered well.
The tourism growth last year demonstrates the importance of international connectivity and highlights the successes that Oman Airports have had in supporting airlines to return post-pandemic, and in attracting both new and existing airlines to open links to new destinations and increase frequency on current services.
One market which has benefitted from a broader range of routes is Europe. The European market has always been of great importance for Oman, not only because of the high numbers of tourists traveling to the country, but also through the historically strong business and economic ties.
Over the last year it has been encouraging to see the range of European destinations return to pre-pandemic levels, with Oman now linked to destinations in Europe by eight scheduled and charter airlines – including the two home based carriers.
What is important for connectivity across the Country, is that the European services are not confined to the capital city Muscat, but Salalah Airport the gateway to exploring the Dhofar region in the south is now also linked directly to Europe; all of which supports the important Khareef season in Salalah which attracts tens of thousands of tourists annually. This growth in Salalah is set to continue as we see more travel from Central and Eastern Europe in addition to winter break travel from traditional European markets such as Italy and Germany.
Throughout 2022, the easing of restrictions has clearly played an important role in supporting this growth, however the decision by the Government to grant visa free access to enter Oman for citizens of over 100 countries across the world has also been a major element in driving the recovery of the tourism in Oman, and in establishing new tourism source markets.
In addition, the significant developments that are ongoing in the tourism sector that are being put in place by the Omani Government as part of their overall twenty year Vision 2040, will also be a significant driver of future growth. Over $5bn is being invested in tourism projects across Oman over the next three years, which includes tourism facilities that will aim to attract visitors from across the region and beyond. The investment also includes over 100 individual hotel projects that will facilitate the growing demand.
Vision 2040 is also driving similar levels of investment in sectors across the economy, and this presents major route development opportunities for airlines looking to serve new and expanding markets, and the Route Development team at Oman Airports are looking forward to highlighting these opportunities to our airline colleagues over the coming months.