Britain’s ties with Oman deepen with the latest royal visitor

Britain’s ties with Oman

A three-day visit by Britain’s Prince Harry to the Gulf state of Oman provides further evidence of the close ties which exist between the royal families of both countries.

The visit, at the invitation of Oman’s leader, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, kicked off with the Prince’s arrival at Muscat International Airport.

There, Prince Harry, on his first visit to the country, was greeted by HH SayyidHaitham bin Tariq al Said, the Minister of Heritage and Culture and the Omani patron of the Omani British Friendship Association.

It’s the latest in a series of visits to Oman by British royalty. In 2010, HM The Queen visited the country as did HRH The Prince of Wales in 2013.

Tourism, cultural and business links

Such high-profile visits help boost tourism, cultural and business links and reflect Britain’s strong trading relationship with the country. Indeed, more than 2 million tourists visited Oman last year, an increase of 7.8% on the previous year, according to government figures.

Although the country is striving hard to meet the rise in numbers, by building more hotels and improving infrastructure, a skills shortage locally is hampering the sector. Estimates suggest tourism contributed about $2.5 billion to the Omani economy in 2013, a figure which is expected to triple this year.

Glamorous image

An economic update produced by the influential Oxford Business Group (OBG) says that while Oman may not have as glamorous an image as some of its neighbours, the country’s diverse geography of mountains, deserts and thousands of miles of coastline is nonetheless attracting huge interest, not to mention the easiness to finance and business in the country.

BahaaHefzalla, marketing director with the Muriya Tourism Development Company, believes that upgrades to Oman’s airports, coupled with the opening of new facilities in regional hubs, have helped to broaden the country’s appeal.

He told OBG, “There are now more direct flights to Salalah from major GCC cities and more frequent flights from Muscat around Oman. This is opening many doors for tourism companies and developers. The demand is sky-rocketing.”

Stiff competition

However, when it comes to attracting tourists, Oman has some pretty stiff competition to contend with, particularly from other Gulf countries like the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Dubai, the UAE’s largest metropolis, attracts the lion’s share of both aviation and tourism activity in the region which is forecast to generate more than $53 billion for its economy by 2020 and support more than 750,000 jobs in the process.

Last year alone, says a Gulf Times article, Dubai attracted nearly 10 million non-UAE visitors who spent a total of $13 billion – equivalent to about 1% of all foreign visitor spend across the world.

More to come

Such success, however, has come on the back of huge investment efforts made by both the public and private sectors over recent years, resulting currently in the world-class aviation and tourism infrastructure which has now cornered some 0.4% of the global business and tourism market.

And there’s much more to come, suggests the article, with growth of Dubai’s aviation sector set to continue over the next few years, even outstripping the rate of growth of the economy as a whole. The full article is available here.

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