Were it not for the fact that Oman has been in the catalogues of German tour operators for decades, against the backdrop of the current climate debate and talk about authentic travel and sustainability one might think they had only just discovered this travel destination. Product managers are unanimous in their praise for the partner country of ITB. In response to questions ahead of ITB Berlin 2020 they all describe Oman as a premium destination exuding, in the words of Heiko Blattler, Gebeco’s Orient/North Africa manager, the “charm of the unknown.” That is what makes the sultanate on the Arabian peninsula so attractive, especially for younger people, he says.
According to the travel experts Oman, “Orient for beginners“ and “a place one can truly relax”, amazes practically “everyone eager to explore this region, with its blend of fascinating culture and spectacular natural attractions.“ “After a six and a half hour flight, visitors can delve into a completely different world“, is how Silke Lukas, product manager at Boomerang, describes the sultanate, which has been diplomatically and wisely governed by the same sultan since 1970.
Exploring Arabia like a boutique
Other things that surprise the visitor are how the traditional lifestyle blends with a carefully managed, organic transition to modernity. “This country, with a culture and lifestyle that has nothing to do with mass tourism destinations“, boasts a wide range of attractions and contrasts, says Tobias Büttner, managing director of Geoplan, as well as a “spectacular natural landscape that takes many by surprise“, adds Jana Hake, product manager at SKR. Heiko Blattler: “Rugged mountain ranges with deep ravines, uninhabited deserts, fertile and evergreen oases, seasonal rivers and miles of beaches.“
Souqs and markets are the place to go for authentic Omani culture, says Jana Hake, while stressing that “despite the intense experience visitors do not get a feeling of being overpowered.“ Jörg-Dietrich Meltzer, area manager for Oman at Studiosus, sells trips to “a culture that has evolved slowly, transcends the nomadic culture of its neighbours, and has produced a noteworthy number of cultural monuments worth visiting.“
According to Geoplan, Oman’s unique selling point is that it is “an Arab country without the skyscrapers and mass tourism, unlike others in the Gulf region“. Tobias Büttner from Geoplan: “Visitors can gently explore both ancient and modern aspects of Arabia, like in a boutique.“
An insider’s tip – and a safe destination
For many visitors Oman is still uncharted territory. Wrongly so, says Jana Hake from SKR. She advertises a country which as the partner of ITB Berlin 2020 will be trying to attract the industry’s attention. For Carlo Pontzen, a specialist in Arab countries at EWTC, Oman “is still an insider’s tip and an organically developing country.“ According to Heiko Blattler from Gebeco, the quality of accommodation and catering is outstanding,“ and “the hygiene situation is excellent“. SKR promises that “anyone travelling to Oman for the first time will definitely be amazed and will take home unforgettable memories.“ And all “without having to worry about one’s safety.“ This is an important point, according to Studiosus, which has been advertising Oman since 1989. Katharina Schirmbeck, head of Product Management, Long-Haul Eastern Destinations, TUI: “This an easy and safe country for travelling.“
From beach holidays to study trips
The operators who organise trips to Oman are very imaginative with all-inclusive packages. Offers range from beach holidays only to study trips that include getting to know the country and people. Oman is an expensive destination. Even so, travelling there is affordable. A seven-day beach holiday, with an airfare from Germany and all -inclusive catering is available from 899 euros, and a 12-day study trip costs around 3,000 euros. Below are some examples:
Bedu Expeditionen is a “manufactory“ which for 25 years has been custom organising individual travel packages, with unusual elements if desired: small guest houses, camel trekking, desert guides – “just about everything Oman has to offer“, according to Peter Franzisky. An example of an individual mountain tour with hotel reservations: www.visit-oman.com/routen/route3.html
TUI is promoting its new TUI Round Trips (TUI Tours Rundreisen) in Oman (https://www.tui.com/rundreisen/). The focus of its eight-day “Impressions of Oman“ round trip is on authentic local experiences and encounters and sustainable travel.
DER Touristik has a six-day “Oman Adventure“ round trip in its catalogue. Visitors travel by off-road vehicle to the Jabal Akhdar and Jabal Shams mountains, across ravines and into the desert, to oases and wadis. “This tour is so beautiful that we are offering three variants: for those who wish to drive hemselves, with an English-speaking driver, or with a tour group and a German-speaking travel guide“, says Orient director Ines Batz. www.dertour.de/rundreise/abenteuer-oman-MCT90140VA Studiosus: the 12-day study trip “Oman – a comprehensive trip“ is one of the most popular Studiosus tours worldwide. The operator describes it thus: “Visitors can enjoy palm tree-lined wadis, long sandy beaches and sheer endless dunes, stone/clay forts, the magnificent buildings of the country’s ruler and the ancient frankincense trees of Dhofar in the south.“ www.studiosus.com/3902 Marco Polo also has an 11-day trip to Oman on offer.
SKR-Reisen: “Oman Highlights“ is the organiser’s best-selling trip to Oman. As well as a visit to the capital Muscat, the trip takes in mountain regions, desert landscapes and oases in the country’s north. Visitors can enjoy a relaxing end to their journey on the beaches of Salalah in the south. www.skr.de/oman-reisen/oman-rundreise-hoehepunkte/ Boomerang-Reisen: the highlight of this organiser’s portfolio is a private tour of nature highlights and cultural attractions in Oman’s north. The trip can be adapted to individual tastes and also complemented with a beach holiday. www.boomerang-reisen.de/vorderer-orient/oman Gebeco: Dr. Tigges’ 11-day study trip “From the Hajar Mountrains to the land of frankincense“ covers everything from the city of Muscat with its modern charm, a traditional cattle market in Nizwa, an overnight stay in a desert camp under starry skies, to the lesser-known “land of frankincense“ in the south. The ancient royal city of Bahla is particularly worth visiting. Visitors travelling with Gebeco also learn something about the ingenious irrigation system of Falaj Daris.
EWTC: The region of Dhofar with the city of Salalah in the country’s south is known especially for its cool and wet drizzly climate from mid-June to mid-September, when it becomes a sea of green. Outside of these months, the Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara has become highly popular with European guests. Visitors who book with this tour operator can enjoy seven nights, including a room upgrade, in a 176 square-metre garden villa with a private pool, half board, a flight with Oman Air and private airport shuttle.
FTI: Among this tour operator’s recommended arrangements is the luxury hotel Salalah Rotana Resort, a modern oriental hotel situated on a long, white sandy beach with coconut trees. Options bookable at extra cost with this club package include an exclusive beach section with a beachside hut, butler service, a bar, an exclusive breakfast buffet at the beach restaurant, and reduced spa rates. www.fti.de/reiseangebote/hotel-salalah Geoplan: The private trip “Monarchy between fairyland and modernity“ comprises a 15-day journey around Oman. Visitors on this round trip of Oman’s heartland visit towns and villages, a cool mountain region and hot desert plain. On returning to Muscat they can spend two days relaxing on the beach.
Text: Sabine Neumann and Horst Schwartz, Redaktionsbüro Schwartz