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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Omani businesses angered by new visa rules

Tour operators, mainly reliant on UAE residents, said their business model would be hit by the shake-up on March 21

Oman's dramatic mountains are are among its tourism highlights. Philippe Lopez /AFP Photo
Oman's dramatic mountains are are among its tourism highlights. Philippe Lopez /AFP Photo

The ending of visas on arrival in Oman will deter impulse travellers and slow up business, tourism and industry figures warned Thursday.

On Wednesday, Oman said travellers will have to apply in advance for a tourist visa online.

Tour operators, mainly reliant on UAE residents, said their business model would be hit by the new rules.

"People in the GCC countries come to talk business just for a day. It was easy for them just to get a visa at the airport," Suleiman Al Khalili, chief executive officer of Muscat Real Estate Development Company, told The National.

Read more: Oman to introduce new visa rules from March 21

"Now, they would need to apply online and wait for confirmation That may take time. This will affect the way we do businesses with our partners in the region when we need to seal a deal in a speedy way."

Statistics from the Ministry of Tourism show that about 1.12 million people from the GCC countries travelled to Oman in 2017, about 6.5 percent more than a year earlier, of which 723,472 are from the United Arab Emirates.

"Over 40 per cent of our tourists from the UAE come for a day sightseeing in the towns close to the border. We have a six-hour trekking tour in Liwa or diving in Shinas and they arrive at Sohar Airport at 8 am and leave 4pm back to catch their flight to the UAE. It is just a day out for them.

"These are the tourists who make spontaneous decision the previous evening and just catch a flight in the morning," said Khamis Al Harrasy, owner of Al Batnah Tours, based in Sohar.

Visas can now only be applied for online at http://evisa.rop.gov.om.

The Royal Oman Police evisa website this week.
The Royal Oman Police evisa website this week.

Oman's police insisted Thursday that the new measures are an improvement.

"You can apply from anywhere in the world, and, receive the visa in five minutes. All it takes are three steps. We hope to increase the number of tourists coming to Oman with the new online procedures in greater number than the old procedures," a statement said.

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