Numbers are rising. Two millions tourists came in 2011, quite an increase considering that 30 years ago there were none. Ambitions run high, Oman’s tourist authorities aim at 20 millions by 2020. The very symbol for these efforts is the immense constructions site of the new airport. And the sultan doesn’t want to give it away cheaply: the focus is clearly on upscale tourism.
No problem for Oman’s most faithful clientele: European expatriates from other Gulf States. They love Oman – no other country in the gulf offers what Oman has: sandy beaches, majestic mountains, lush oasis and wadis, desert camps with camel safaris, turtles, fjords, 500 impressive fortresses and above all, the impressively relaxed and welcoming Omani people. The perfect family destination if you got dough. In Musandam, 90% of all tourists come from Dubai or other places in the United Arab Emirates.
And we were right in the middle of this! With internationals schools closed for Xmas and Dubai only three hours away by car, they arrived in small groups, two or three families with up to 12 children. Quite often accompanied by grand parents and friends visiting from Europe. Those who come from further away are almost exclusively from Germany, France, Italy or Holland. Why Oman is so popular particularly in these countries, we don’t know!
Add to this the cruise ships that stop in Mutrah and Khasab three times a week… Looking at the big ships run by Costa Cruises, we wondered what it feels like to be on one of them. Do people discuss the accident of the island of Giglio over dinner?