India Representative, Ministry of Tourism – Oman
Exploit Oman for Leisure and Luxury
With the positive and encouraging response from the recent roadshows across India, Oman is set to explore the potentials in niche segments such as wedding and MICE, says Lubaina Sheerazi.
Oman with its varied landscape and its modern facilities has been trending up as an attractive tourism destination. How has been the journey so far? How was 2014 in terms of business? Can you share some figures?
We received 256,210 Indian arrivals in 2014. The year 2014 was very productive for us and we increased our brand awareness massively. Our strategy was to conduct direct consumer based activities. We, therefore, conducted a massive outdoor campaign across Mumbai and also associated with a leading book store for visibility. A blogging contest called ‘Experience Oman’ was conducted in June in which all travel bloggers across India participated and three winners got a chance to pack their bags for an all-expenses paid holiday to Oman. For Trade, we conducted a Mega FAM consisting of 60 agents from across India. We also conducted a radio campaign across a few metro cities. All these efforts helped us achieve increased tourist arrivals and we are confident that we will reap benefits of this in the coming years as well.
Where does India stand as a source market for you and what kind of potential do you see here? What are your strategies for Indian market?
India is a very important source market for us. International Air Transport Association (IATA) data shows India is a fast growing source market for tourists to Oman. We have seen a year on year increase in the number of tourist arrivals from India to Oman. Being a short haul destination from India, Oman is becoming popular with the outbound tourists. Indians are looking for a new, niche destination and Oman has a lot to offer in terms of culture, heritage and adventure activities.
In the Indian market, our main strategy has been to build awareness about the destination by providing detailed information and product knowledge to the travel trade industry. We are promoting the cultural heritage and natural diversity of Oman in India. We try and connect directly with the travel trade. From conducting road shows and training sessions for trade agents to participating in trade events and exhibitions, we want to build the brand ‘Oman’ as a perfect quick holiday getaway.
What products do you offer to the Indian tourists? Which segments of the Indian outbound market do you currently attract and what segments are you looking to tap?
We will be focussing on some niche segments in 2015 besides leisure, especially wedding and MICE. We also plan to conduct networking evenings for corporate and wedding planners in different Indian cities and take them on study tours to Oman. With trade, our focus is shifting towards conducting more one-on-one trainings and meetings. We also want to leverage our presence in social media and will continue conducting online campaigns. Brand building activities will be carefully chosen and we plan to associate our brand with events that cater to our target audience.
Oman has also become popular for destination weddings. Please elaborate on this.
It was a gradual process. Oman gained significant popularity and fame as a wedding destination over the last two years. The official maiden big fat Indian wedding took place in November 2014. This wedding set the ball rolling for us and since then we have already witnessed three major Indian weddings in Oman. The number of weddings to take place in Oman will be on the rise as we are receiving a lot of enquiries in this segment. Being a rather unexplored destination works in Oman’s favour as Indian families are always on the lookout for new destinations. There are several big brands that are slated to open in Oman in the coming years. Some of the hotels include St. Regis, Ritz Carltonthe Muscat Reserve, Saraya Bandar Jissah Resort, Kempinski Hotel and Louis Vuitton Hotel. All these properties will also be an ideal venue to conduct weddings. Currently some of the venue options in Oman are Al Bustan- Ritz Carlton Hotel, Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah, Grand Hyatt, Six Senses Zighy Bay and Millennium Resort.
With immense potential for MICE in Oman, what is it that you offer and where do you stand as a MICE destination for Indian corporates?
The Sultanate of Oman’s meetings and incentive travel focus is becoming sharper. Oman hosts various world With two forts, excellent beaches and a long history ofdhow-building, the capital city of Sur has a lot to offer events and is a popular destination for MICE among the GCC countries and the number of arrivals is growing particularly from India. With Oman embarking in the MICE industry as a key growth market, the Sultanate’s tourism development and management company, Omran, is building the OMR 330 million Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC). The new Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre will open in early 2016 and will provide state-of-the-art facilities and convert Oman into a competitive venue for major global and regional events. This will enable Oman to host major meetings, incentive, conventions and exhibitions events. The 22,000m facility will be complemented with four hotels with a total of 1,000 rooms and a business park. Located four km from Muscat Airport, it will act as a gateway to Muscat and will be seen as a competitive venue for major global events.
To increase awareness amongst corporations and travel trade about Oman as a MICE destination, in 2015 we participated in V-Konnect in Delhi and in MICE India & Luxury Travel (MILT) in Mumbai. We also conducted a familiarisation trip in the month of May for MICE agents and corporations to experience Oman first hand. A corporate evening in Mumbai was also organised to capture the MICE market last year. We plan to conduct more corporate evenings in order to educate the MICE agents/corporates about the destination .
How is the connectivity between India and Oman?
Oman is directly connected with 13 Indian cities, i.e., Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Goa, Lucknow, Mangalore, Cochin, Trivandrum and Calicut. From most cities the flight duration is approximately three hours. The frequency of flights in major metros like Mumbai and Delhi are daily while the frequency is weekly in smaller metros like Ahmedabad and Goa. The airlines are Oman Air (national carrier), Air India, Jet Airways, Air India Express, Indigo and Spice Jet.
What are the challenges that you face in promoting Oman as tourism destination in India? Do popular neighbouring destinations such as Dubai pose any threat?
The biggest challenge we had was to dispel myths and misconceptions regarding the destination. Not many were aware of the tourism highlights of the destination so educating them was essential. Dubai and Oman are vastly different products so a comparison would not be fair. Oman is a niche and not a mass destination for the evolved Indian traveller.
How was the response to your recent roadshow in India?
The response we received from the roadshow was very encouraging and positive. The four cities where we conducted the roadshow have shown interest in promoting Oman. Officials from the Ministry of Tourism – Oman along with representative partners from the tourism industry of Oman, including Al Bustan Palace – A Ritz Carlton Hotel, Al Nahda Resort & Spa, Atana Hotels, Millennium Resort, Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, Six Senses Zighy Bay, Bahwan Tours, Tour Oman, Zahara Tours and Oman Air were present at the roadshow. For the B2B session, we invited travel agents for prefixed meetings with the delegates from Oman. Following the B2B sessions, an evening of networking with cocktails and dinner was also organised for travel agents, wedding planners, film production houses and media.