The Sultanate of Oman’s Ministry of Tourism is preparing for the large number of visitors expected to travel to Salalah, the capital of Dhofar Province and the country’s second largest city, during Al Khareef season extending from June to early September. Last year, Salalah welcomed almost 300,000 local and international guests during the said period.

Salalah has emerged as a popular tourist destination due to its wide array of historical, natural, and heritage sites. The summer palace of the Queen of Sheba found at the city’s ancient port of Sumhuran has already been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Adventurers can also visit the lost desert city of Ubar, the Baobab Forest which has a tree that is more than 2,000 years old, and the fortified ruins of Al Balid. The annual Salalah Tourism Festival held at the Municipality Showground during Al Khareef is another favorite tourist attraction. The city is also known for having the best football clubs in the country.

“Aside from its numerous fascinating locations, Salalah also has cooler weather compared to other parts of Oman during the summer, so it has strong potential as a tourism hub. The Ministry has lined up several initiatives which will further boost the city’s appeal to local, regional and international travelers. We have commissioned a specialized company to draw up a concrete strategy for attracting more Gulf travelers into the city especially during the festive months,” said Salem Al Mamari, Director General of Tourism Promotions, Sultanate of Oman Ministry of Tourism.

The World Travel and Tourism Council predicts a 7.8 per cent compound annual growth rate for Oman’s tourism sector over the next 10 years. The Council expects Oman to emerge as the Middle East’s top tourism growth market and third globally in 2010. The Omani Government plans to generate 3 per cent of the national GDP from tourism and match 80 per cent of tourism jobs with citizens by 2020.

Oman’s Ministry of Tourism recently appointed Al Ketbi Consultancy, a leading specialist in regional tourism with over 25 years of collective industry experience, to enhance the country’s position within the GCC tourism market and boost its global appeal. Al Ketbi will start developing promotional campaigns for new hospitality destinations in Oman such as the Swiss-Belhotel Resort Masirah Island, Salalah Marriott Resort, and the Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay.

Oman is renowned among travelers for its clean mountains, wadis, deserts and beaches. The festivals, held each year in the cities of Muscat and Salalah, have also transformed the country into a unique events venue. Muscat mixes sports, exploration, leisure and history to provide a memorable travel experience with an old-world charm.