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Cruise identified as a major component in Oman's tourism strategy

Mary Bond
Cruise line execs pay a visit to Nizwa Fort in Oman ahead of the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum starting tomorrow
On the eve of the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum, 2014  taking place in Muscat, Oman, Maitha Al Mahrooqi, undersecretary at Oman's Ministry of Tourism, hosted an open air VIP dinner under a full moon at the Al Bustan Palace beach pavilion for dignatories and a dozen cruise line executives.

The undersecretary told Seatrade Insider the Ministry of Tourism has commissioned the formation of a long-term tourism strategy which will identify the fundamental requirements to establish Oman as a vibrant tourism destination, with the cruise sector being a major component.

Earlier today, execs from Costa; Crystal Cruises; Cunard; Holland America Line; MSC Cruises; Noble Caledonia; P&O Cruises; Princess Cruises; Royal Caribbean International; Seabourn; Silversea; and TUI Cruises had a tour of Muscat and its surroundings including visits to the Grand Mosque, Nizwa Souq and Fort, Muttrah Souq and drive past Port Sultan Qaboos, which is now dedicated to leisure and cruise activities.

'Oman is an essential part of TUI Cruises' Middle East itineraries, commented Tine Oelmann, director port operations, shorex and ground handling. 'Both Muscat and Khasab offer passengers a different experience after the cityscapes of the United Arab Emirates. In Oman they can find heritage, culture and nature, highlighting the diversity of this region,' she added.

TUI Cruises' Mein Schiff 2 is currently operating its second Middle East winter cruise programme incorporating seven day butterfly cruises out of Dubai and the German brand is set to return again in 2015/16.

Also returning to Oman in 2015 is UK small shop operator Noble Caledonia. Island Sky will undertake a turnaround in Muscat, including overnight stay next November, with calls also in the Omani ports of Sur and Khasab. ‘Oman is a rich seam to be mined,’ commented Mike Deegan, fleet director. ‘Seeing is believing in this amazing country with its mix of culture, heritage, wildlife and special hospitality,' he added.

Key issues impacting the development of the Arabian Gulf's cruise industry are to come under the spotlight at the Middle East Forum, organised by Seatrade and hosted by the Ministry of Tourism, Sultanate of Oman, which starts with a summit session tomorrow attended by regional ministers, tourism authorities, port and immigration officials. 

A conference for the summit attendees plus ship agents, airlines, destination management companies and other cruise industry stakeholders will take place on December 10, followed by a workshop session where each of the hosted cruise line executives will meet officials from participating destinations.