x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Adventure sports the way ahead for Oman

Local companies stand to benefit from increased promotion of the activities on offer in the country.

Adventure tourism, including activities such as caving, are playing an increasingly important role in Oman's tourism development plans.

Local companies stand to benefit from increased promotion of the activities on offer in the country.

"As the ministry put the awareness out in the market we'll see an increase," said Rob Gardner, the manager of the Muscat Diving and Adventure Centre. "The whole country is about adventure sports."

Mr Gardner said abseiling, climbing, deepwater soloing (climbing unsecured on cliffs above water) and bouldering were among the activities attracting tourists to Oman.

"It is growing but these are niche markets," he said.

Oman's ministry of tourism is looking into developing caves such as the Majlis al Jinn, which has one of the largest underground chambers in the world, into tourism attractions.

The cave is closed as a study is conducted on the feasibility of making the chamber accessible to all tourists, rather than just experienced cavers. The chamber has impressive geographical formations and wildlife, the ministry said.

Another cave, Al Hoota, was opened to the public in 2006 with a small train taking tourists from the visitor centre to the main entrance.

"We are developing caving tourism and there are many caves being developed," said Salim al Mamari, the director general of tourism promotion at the Oman ministry of tourism. The sector is an important diversification strategy for Oman.

"With Oman's oil and gas resources being small in comparison to its neighbouring Gulf states, as well as the likelihood that these resources will run dry within the coming two decades, the sultanate's interest in the travel and tourism industry has never been greater," said analysts at Euromonitor International.

In the past, the country was not so open to tourism.

"Oman was not a visitor-friendly country for many years, with visa regulations being a barrier until the late 1980s, which was further aggravated by the shortage of direct flights and the limited tourism infrastructure," Euromonitor said.

rbundhun@thenational.ae