When it comes to types of travelers and airfare revenue, there are two categories: connecting passengers and destination passengers. While airline giants like Emirates and Qatar Airways are mainly focused on connecting passengers through their major hubs, Oman Air will focus solely on inbound tourists. This means Omani cities like Muscat and Salalah will be the final destination for travelers. This is all part of the country’s National Aviation Strategy 2030 – a document that was released on Wednesday.
Economic growth through aviation
Oman is not the only Middle Eastern country trying to diversify its economy away from oil. Many of the Gulf nations’ massive amounts of wealth have largely been derived from oil and natural gas extraction. However, with the evergrowing shift away from fossil fuels combined with the non-renewable nature of the resource, Middle Eastern nations are scrambling to find other drivers of economic prosperity.
This has been quite evident with countries like Saudi Arabia only now opening itself up to global tourism. Prior to this, the country was fairly restricted in who could enter its borders. The various Emirates of the UAE (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah) are also doing their best to move away from oil – with tourism and aviation being key areas of focus.
In Oman, the nation’s aviation sector contribution to its GDP in 2018 was estimated at over 1.5 billion Omani Rials – equivalent to US$3.9 billion. In fact, just over half of this was the result of tourism. The country reports the equivalent of $1.97 billion coming from tourist spending (food, accommodation, cultural services, recreational services). Seeing this, and acknowledging even greater potential, Oman has developed a strategy for the next 10 years.
“…it is imperative that Oman implements an aviation strategy and roadmap that will enable its aviation industry to not only grow independently of government funding, but also to become a significant and direct contributor to the country’s GDP.”
The strategy also adds that the mission of Oman’s aviation sector is to become the value engine of Oman’s economic growth and an enabler for the tourism and logistics sectors.
Inbound tourism: Oman as an international destination
With aspirations of growing its aviation sector, Oman isn’t taking the same path as some of its Middle Eastern neighbors. Indeed, it would almost be foolish for Oman Air to mimic the regional competition. Its report even acknowledges the crowded space that Oman finds itself in – with big Middle Eastern giants and a multitude of low-cost carriers all looking for market share.
In fact, rather than trying to boost connecting traffic, Oman’s aviation sector aims to focus the efforts of Oman Air on inbound tourism. The goal will be to “position Oman as an international destination of choice amongst a broader audience”.
According to the report, the Sultanate’s national carrier is now “focused entirely on bringing high-value inbound tourists to Oman”. On the ground, this means that the airline will work with Oman’s tourism bodies, coordinating loyalty programs with the local hospitality sector. The strategy also calls for “strategic use” of codeshare partners to expand the network.
Below are the targets within the National Aviation Strategy for 2030. As you can see, it intends to achieve a lot by 2030:
So what will this look like for you? Perhaps you’ll be seeing more tourism ads for Oman in the near future. On top of this, you’re likely to see tour packages that combine Oman Air flights with hotels and experiences. Hopefully, these will come at an attractive price. And even though connecting traffic is less of a focus, maybe we’ll see stopover offerings by Oman Air, similar to what Turkish Airlines has with its TourIstanbul program.
If you’re a world traveler and adventure seeker, you may just find yourself on an Oman Air flight to Muscat in the next few years, benefitting from this new strategic plan.
Do you think this is a smart move by Oman’s leadership? Will there be enough interest in the country as a destination? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.