We met with friends and sat out by the long pool at The Chedi; we had lunch and then played tennis at Al Bustan; we went on several walks with our little dog Billy; and I played several rounds of golf at Al Mouj, watched some football matches at the sports bar at The Grand Hyatt, and rode my bike.
This year Eid was definitely a different time in our capital city. The roads were a pleasure, with little traffic and none of that early morning rushing around. The hotels seemed full of people; with Eid falling also at half term for many European countries, there were tourists around in large numbers. Many a hotelier has told me that a full hotel means the staff work quicker and better, and of course half of the fun of being a tourist is that ‘people-watching’ thing: so the more the people, the better the watching.
The promotion of tourism in Oman is one of the major objectives of the plans for the future of the sultanate. Not only does tourism provide valuable income for the country, but it also lifts its profile on the world stage. Tourism also creates many employment opportunities, mostly in different fields from those associated with the oil and gas industry, or banking and finance.
To me, Oman has yet to fully embrace the needs of the modern tourist. Dubai is an interesting model: During Eid the Burj Khalifa and some of the shopping malls were open 24/7 to cater to the demand. Dubai dreams up initiatives to keep the tourists coming throughout the year, to drive tourism and the secondary businesses that feed off tourism. Oman does not do this.
Oman should not want to be like Dubai, but some more visionary and coordinated thinking is needed. More needs to be done to get tourists out of the hotels and enjoying our ocean; into our shopping malls; and onto our golf courses. The permit processes need to be streamlined and focussed on the needs of the tourist, so that, for example, a full range of quality food and beverages are available both when and where the tourists want them.
There is a role to play for all of the residents of Oman in this too. I live near to the beach at Shatti, and walking from the British Embassy down past The Grand Hyatt towards the InterContinental Muscat is now a pleasure. The beach is safe, with the white, grey and chestnut police horses and their riders on patrol. Many people can be seen to be enjoying the beach and newly grassed areas: cooking food, promenading, and just chilling out. But why do many of these people consider they have the right to discard their rubbish for others to clean up?
There are plastic bags, water bottles, left over food, and trash everywhere come late afternoon on many of our beaches. A friend told me that Sifah beach was littered with rubbish after her holiday weekend of camping. And a citizen journalist in Muscat Daily last Saturday quoted the same at Qantab.
This has got to stop. And so has the spitting that so many young males seem to spend their lives doing. All our citizens should both clear up after themselves, and behave in ways that their parents and country would be proud of. After all, all of us who live here play an important role in promoting future tourism in this country.
Nick lives and works in Muscat and the views expressed in this column are entirely his own. You can e-mail Nick at email@example.com