Oman’s tourism rates soar as expat numbers plummet

Europeans still account for the bulk of non-Arab visitors to Oman. (File/Shutterstock)
Updated 11 June 2019

Oman’s tourism rates soar as expat numbers plummet

  • The number of hotel guests rose to nearly 200,000, but room rates remained steady
  • While tourism grows, the expat ban has pushed residency figures down

DUBAI: The number of foreign tourists visiting Oman in April rose by more than a third compared with the same time last year, according to figures issued by the National Center for Statistics and Information (NCSI).

There were 330,685 foreign visitors to Oman in April 2019 – 84,452 more than the same month in the previous year, accounting for a 34.3 percent increase.

The majority of the visitors were GCC nationals – with 152,249 visitors making up 46 percent of the overall number of tourists in April this year, an increase of 41 percent.

There were 155,810 non-Arab nationals visiting from across the world, with the main bulk from Europe – predominantly Germany, the UK, Italy and Spain.

Oman saw 14,000 cruise ship visitors for the same time period – that was 53.7 percent more than the same month in 2018.   

And the number of hotel guests rose by nearly half as much from 134,000 in April 2018 to 199,000 in April, 2019.

While the number of guests staying in Oman’s hotels increased, room rates remained steady year-on-year, although occupancy rates fell slightly from 64.3 percent to 63 percent.

While the report did not attempt to explain the latter, local press have reported an increase in the number of available hotel and hotel apartment rooms across the country.

But while the number of foreign tourists is on the increase, the country’s Omanization project has seen the expat population fall below 2 million for the first time in two years, the NCSI said in a separate report.

The drop means foreign residents now only account for 43 percent of the country’s overall population – the lowest in three years.

The decline in expat numbers is the result of Oman’s ongoing expat visa ban for certain professions and industries aimed at tackling the number of unemployed locals.

Popeyes flexes its muscles in China as KFC feels the heat

Updated 20 November 2019

Popeyes flexes its muscles in China as KFC feels the heat

  • Popeyes signed a lease in Shanghai for its first store in China on Monday

SHANGHAI: US fried chicken chain Popeyes wants to become the top chicken brand in China, the chief executive of its parent company said on Tuesday, as it prepares to take on KFC, the leading player in the world’s most populous market.

Popeyes signed a lease in Shanghai for its first store in China on Monday, which is expected to open next year.

The company outlined plans in July to build 1,500 restaurants in China in the coming decade, becoming the last of Toronto-based Restaurant Brands International Inc’s main brands to enter the country.

By contrast, Yum China’s KFC has about 6,300 stores. Yum has said that it is acutely aware there is more opportunity to expand in China, noting that while it was in 1,300 Chinese cities, there are still as many as 800 cities without a KFC store.

Popeyes’ July plan was “just really to put a framework on the short-term potential business,” Jose Cil, RBI’s CEO said in an interview in Shanghai.

“I think we can be the No. 1 chicken brand here in China and all around Asia,” he said, adding that consumers in the region were looking for options. He dismissed concerns that a slowing China economy and trade tensions had dimmed prospects for growth in the long term.

Cil’s remarks comes as the Cajun-inspired fast food chicken chain experiences a surge in popularity in the US after a newly launched fried chicken sandwich went viral on social media.

Demand was such that Popeyes had to stop taking orders after only two weeks before relaunching it this month.

The sandwich will also be offered in China, he said.

Cil noted that RBI’s other two main brands had seen rapid growth in China.

Burger King has expanded to around 1,100 stores in China from less than 100 in 2012. “We think we’ll keep growing at a steady pace,” Cil said.

And Tim Hortons, its Canadian coffee chain, just opened its 28th store in China after launching there in February.

“We are preparing ourselves to be able to accelerate growth in the coming years,” Cil said of
the brand.