Salalah is attracting more visitors than ever, with more than 150,000 having visited the Dhofari capital to enjoy the khareef between June 21 and July 25, an increase of 171 per cent compared to the year before, according to the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI).
One of the reasons for the increase in tourists is that Ramadan ended earlier this year and many people visited Dhofar during the Eid holidays.
But whatever the case, the high number of visitors has meant good business for hotels, museums, restaurants and other services.
“We’ve had a very good July. Since the start of the khareef occupancy for our property was above 90 per cent,” said Daniel Fanselow, GM of Juweira Boutique Hotel at Salalah Beach.
There have many people making last-minute bookings, and some booking into August, too, so Fanselow was optimistic that business would continue to be strong until the end of the khareef season.
At the Crowne Plaza Resort business has also been strong this khareef season, said GM Manuel Levonian.“There’s been a steady occupancy since the beginning of the season. We’ve been doing an occupancy of about 85 to 90 per cent on an average,” he said.
The Eid holidays were especially busy, he added, with some days hitting 100 per cent occupancy.
Now the huge rush is over but business is very steady, and the city and region are filled with tourists enjoying the mild temperatures and misty mountains.
“The atmosphere is vibrant and the city is very busy. The roads are very busy and obviously a lot of people are in the mountains, which are quite green,” added Fanselow.
Statistics compiled by the NCSI also indicate that the highest growth in the number of visitors was recorded among those from Asian countries who logged a whopping 248.4 per cent surge during the period with their numbers touching 28,370.
Of the total 150,334 people who arrived in Salalah since the khareef season began, as many as 115,789 were from GCC countries including 89,523 from the Sultanate, showing a rise of 164.6 per cent compared to the figures recorded during the same period last year.
A further 13,219 GCC visitors to Salalah came via regional flights, while 4382 people flew in on international flights.
There has been a significant increase — 102.8 per cent to be exact — in the number of khareef visitors from other Arab countries, too.
Their numbers reached 4568, of which 1668 visitors came through Salalah airport.
A total of 4655 visitors from Asia arrived in Salalah via the airport.
The magic khareef has even cast its spell among Americans, with 351 people from the USA visiting Salalah during the period, posting a growth of 36.6 per cent compared to 2014.
More than twice the usual number of visitors have stopped by the Al Baleed Archaeological Park and Museum of the Land of Frankincense this season, too, said Ghanim Al Shanfari, Director of the Museum.
“This July we had 22,084 visitors. In the same month of the last year we had 10,560 visitors,” he noted, adding that the Samahram Archaeological Site had 9929 visitors this July, up 8.4 per cent from 9162 in July 2014.
Over the past year there have been renovations and new services at the Al Baleed site, including a cafe and botanical gardens, which have attracted more people, he explained.
To cope with the increase in numbers the site has hired more museum guides, increased the security, and lengthened the opening hours from 9am to 9pm from Sunday to Thursday and 3pm to 9pm on Friday and Saturday.
“In general, to be honest Salalah has really become an international tourist spot. Last year there was really a big number of European tourists, too,” said Al Shanfari, adding that he expected many visitors from countries such as Germany, Switzerland and France from the beginning of September.
Fuel stations are also making sure they are well stocked and able to provide for all the extra vehicles on the roads. Omanoil, for example, is constantly monitoring its reserves at all its 17 fuelling stations in Dhofar as well as those located in route, as well as continuously replenishing them to avoid any possibility of a shortage.
In addition, all Ahlain stores have been fully stocked with a wide array of products and goods for the convenience of its shoppers.
“Our extensive retail network has been fully prepared to meet the challenges posed by the huge volume of tourists.
In fact, officials have already recorded a 77.3 per cent rise in the number of visitors to Salalah compared to the same period last year.
It was therefore essential for us to develop an approach that would ensure all customers continue to enjoy the quick and convenient experience the Omanoil brand is renowned for 24 hours a day,” said Faisal Al Shanfari, Oman Oil Marketing Company’s General Manager of Human Resources, Corporate Affairs, Procurement and Health, Safety, Security and Environment.
The flow of visitors is expected to stay strong through the end of khareef and even into the Eid Al Adha holiday, which is expected around September 23.
Levonion said the Crowne Plaza Resort is already taking bookings for the next holidays.
“We are already seeing a positive trend for the next Eid holiday,” he concluded.