The Sultanate of Oman has made sweeping changes to its visa arrangements to lure more tourists. The new arrangements (of immediate effect) include an OMR 5 fee for a single entry tourism visa (Group 1 countries) for up to 10 days (a decrease of 75%) while cruise arrival visas are free up to 24 hours or OMR 5 for multiple visits The OMR 20 for a single entry for up to a month remains in place.

Maitha Al Mahrouqi, the Undersecretary of Tourism says “this is great news for Oman’s tourism industry and our international travel and tourism trade partners. The government has moved proactively to improve Oman’s competitiveness in stop-over, short-stay and conference tourism. The changes also encourage travel to Salalah and other regional destinations, and conference organisers to consider Oman as an event location”.

The Ministry of Tourism sees the new arrangements as an important structural change to boost Oman’s tourism performance. In the short-term, the Ministry expects a lift in leisure and short stay visits. Oman Air’s rapidly growing passenger transit market is also of interest to Oman’s tourism industry. For the year ending September 2011, the transit market was around 787,000 passenger transits and it is growing at around 19% per year. This includes around 80,100 premium travellers.

Oman is also seeing a boom in cruise ship activity and the new visa arrangements strengthen the case for cruise lines to consider Muscat for crew and passenger exchanges.

Maitha Al Mahrouqi, also comments: “The changes will be welcomed by the global travel and tourism trade. The changes make Oman very attractive for the growing stopover, business and cruise passenger segments – areas of great potential. The changes also open up possibilities for a wide range of trade and consumer tactical campaigns, including our stopover campaign with Oman Air” she commented.

The reforms follow the launch of the Ministry’s Oman global awareness campaign on BBC Worldwide television and web sites, the Arab League Tourism Ministers’ declaration of Muscat as Arab Tourism Capital in 2012, and the launch of Oman’s 1 Free Night in Oman* stopover campaign with Oman Air.