of Oman is increasingly becoming a favourite in Indian wedding market with the
tourism board taking specific initiatives in this direction. Lubaina Sheerazi,
in an exclusive interview with India Touirism Review, tells us how the ease of
movement and an understanding of Indian culture among the inhabitants of the host
country goes a long way in making Indian wedding groups feel comfortable and
make the most out of their stay in Oman’s stunning destinations and changing topography.
The plethora of options allows it to fit in the itinerary of all kind of travellers,
be it adventurers, FIT or business travellers. Besides, Oman is also emerging as one of the choicest offbeat destinations among Indian travellers
Sheerazi while speaking to us elaborated on various destinations, the board’s planned events and
Here is the full interview:
with us the stats in terms of volume of Indian tourist arrivals in Oman and
expected growth from Indian market in near future.
In 2013, the number of Indian tourist
arrivals to Oman was 244,768. We saw a 10.4% increase in arrivals as compared
to 2012. In 2014, we are looking at 15% increase in tourist arrivals and
we hope all the efforts we put in the last few years will aid us in achieving
What are the major destinations and tourist attractions which you think could
be of special interest for Indian travellers to Oman
Oman offers a plethora of options in terms of
attractions and activities to choose. It is now being known for activities such as
water sports, rock climbing, dune bashing, trekking, dolphin watching and
shopping in the souks.
The country also features historic forts and
castles, which are among the many cultural landmarks that give the country its
Indian families frequent the regions of
Muscat, Jebel Shams, Nizwa, Sur, Sharqiyah Sands (commonly known as Wahiba
Sands). These regions cater well to Indian interests and are easily accessible
Muscat is a beautiful and unique city that
boasts of some wonderful natural landscape that consists of mountains, ocean
Nizwa is the cultural capital of Oman and
houses some wonderful forts and traditional souks while Jebel Shams is
the highest mountain peak in Oman and also nicknamed The Grand Canyon of the
Sur is a picturesque coastal city and also
known for its dhow making factory while Sharqiyah Sands boasts
of the highest dunes in Arabia and has some wonderful desert camping options.
Another amazing destination that Indians love
is Ras Al Jinz which is a turtle reserve where you can witness
turtles laying eggs and turtle hatching. There are five kinds of turtles
that come and nest in the shores of Oman year round and watching the circle of
life of the turtles is an unforgettable experience.
Adventure activities is another
USP of Oman and we promote various adventure activities like snorkeling,
kayaking, scuba diving, trekking etc to Indian travellers who wish to indulge
in them when visiting Oman.
Muttrah Souq is a vibrant
market to buy souvenirs, while Muscat Grand Mall houses
several big brands.
Royal Opera House Muscat is
a state-of-the-art opera house in the Arabian Peninsula that hosts some world
class international artists, operas, orchestras and musicians. The opera house
has in the past opened its doors to several top Indian artistes like L
Subramanium, Zakir Hussain and Pandit Jasraj.
Do you have a particular segment of tourists as the target of your
promotional campaign? How do you plan to position yourself vis-à-vis these
Oman is a family friendly destination as it
is one of the safest countries in the Middle East. Since a family consists of
individuals who have different interests, Oman fits the bill perfectly as it
offers a wide range of activities to indulge in. So the primary segment we
target is the FIT/Leisure traveler.
In 2014, we also want to promote Oman as a
wedding destination. Oman is a ideal wedding destination from India as it is
just a short flight away (under 2.5 hours from Mumbai), has several non-stop
flights flying everyday, a stunning destination with an amazing topography
which is perfect for an Indian wedding as one can have every event set against
a different backdrop (beach, desert, gardens, ballroom) and also has a good
understanding of Indian weddings due to the local Indians and easy access to
Indian vendors. We feel that Oman will definitely provide the ‘wow’ factor most
clients are looking for. We have conducted exclusive familiarizations trips for
leading wedding planners and event managers from India to increase destination
MICE is an upcoming segment, with regards to
Oman. We are eagerly awaiting the opening of Oman Convention and Exhibition
Centre (OCEC) in 2016. The new Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre will
provide state-of-the-art facilities and convert Oman into a competitive venue
for major global and regional events. We recently participated in MILT
(Meetings Incentive Luxury Travel) in Mumbai and Experiential Planner in Delhi,
Mumbai and Ahmedabad where we met some corporates who showed interest in
conducting MICE events in Oman.
There are a number of destinations which have a strong market base in India
such as Thailand, Singapore, Europe, Dubai etc. How do you plan to deal with
such stiff competition?
are not competing with anyone as our destination is very different from the
ones you mentioned. Anyone who visits Oman can also vouch for the fact that it
cannot be compared with any other destination; be it in Asia or Europe. One can
never forget Oman even if they have visited it only once in their lifetime.
The stark landscape of the destination cannot be missed. Also, no other
destination can boast of a topography that changes in every 2 hours. We have
from the beautiful beaches to the grand mountains, from the golden sands to the
green wadis (valley), from rustic souks to opulent opera house. The Arabian
Riviera that exists in Oman is also striking and picturesque.
How do you plan to promote Oman among Indian travel trade
Travel trade is a very important factor in
tourism. A major segment of travelers in India still plan their travel through
effective consultation with the travel agents and tour operators. We are
already working closely with the travel agents through various initiatives like
joint promotions, advertising, familiarization trips, online / offline training
programs, sales visits, etc.
the month of August we are conducting a webinar called ‘Discover Oman Specialist Program’ for the travel trade. The idea is
engage with travel trade and create
better awareness of the Sultanate of Oman as a growing tourist destination in
the Middle East. We have already received more than 500 registered entries
for the webinar and expecting many more.
A major event we will also be conducing this
year will be the ‘Discover Oman’ in
the month of September. For this, we are inviting about 50-60 prominent travel
agents from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad to
Oman. There will be pre tours and post tours conducted in Oman along with B2B
workshops for the agents where they can interact with the travel trade in Oman
directly. Discover Oman will educate and introduce the travel trade to a gamut
of exciting places to be seen and explored in Oman. This is the first time we
are conducting an event of this caliber and hope it will help the Indian travel
trade understand the destination better as they get first hand experience of
Brief us on the status of connectivity between the two countries and travel
Oman is well connected to several Indian
cities through airways. Oman Air, the national carrier operates direct flights
to 10 cities in India. Air India, Jet Airways, SpiceJet and Indigo also operate
direct flights to Oman.
Visa processing is done by the Directorate
General of Passports & Residence in Oman which can be coordinated by the
inbound operators in Oman. The visa processing takes about 4 – 6 working days
(Thursdays & Fridays are non-working days in Oman). One needs to provide
the following to the travel agent:
• Scanned copies
of passport valid for at least six months
• Return Ticket
or Hotel confirmation from Oman
• Scanned copy
of passport size photograph in blue background
You are exploring some new ways of promoting Oman in the country such as
through bloggers. What are your expectations? How helpful is the digital space
in facilitating promotion?
biggest evolution witnessed by the tourism industry over the last few decades
has been the role of Internet. The web no longer plays a passive role but is
almost as influential as family/friends in the choice of a destination for
vacation. Hence, it becomes vital for any tourism board to plan and
execute an effective digital marketing strategy as the world is rapidly
shifting from analogue to digital.
We conducted a blogging contest in the month
of June. We chose to connect with the blogging community because bloggers have
a very high credibility, lot of followers and trust among their readers making
them the most influential community in the online space. We received an
overwhelming number of entries and observed that there is a huge percentage of
mature, experiential travelers who would like to explore an off-beat destination