In bid to boost tourism, Oman grants visa-free travel to 103 countries

Oman is opening up to tourism once again, and is taking a number of steps to encourage international travelers to visit following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Oman is opening up to tourism once again, and is taking a number of steps to encourage international travelers to visit following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Short Url
Updated 09 January 2021

In bid to boost tourism, Oman grants visa-free travel to 103 countries

Oman is opening up to tourism once again, and is taking a number of steps to encourage international travelers to visit following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Compared with other nations around the world, the numbers of the pandemic remained relatively low in Oman

MUSCAT: Oman is opening up to tourism once again, and is taking a number of steps to encourage international travelers to visit. 

After announcing in July last year that tourist visas would be extended until March 2021, the Omani authorities have revealed that eligible citizens of more than 100 countries can now travel to Oman visa-free for up to 10 days.

Compared with other nations around the world, the numbers of the pandemic remained relatively low in Oman, and the sultanate did not face a collapse of the healthcare system. 

This was also thanks to the travel restrictions and other limitations imposed by the government to curb the spread of the disease (you can click on the following link if you want further information about Oman’s COVID-19 restrictions.)

However, the sultanate’s economy, which is already going through a delicate stage trying to transition away from its dependency on oil resources, was heavily affected by the pandemic. 

Oman has much to offer to travelers in terms of history, culture, and natural beauty, so it comes as no surprise that the country decided to boost international tourism to fuel its financial recovery.

Visa Extension for Tourists

Like many other countries around the world, Omanis authorities saw themselves with no other option but to suspend visa issuance back in March

This affected the vast majority of foreigners and was part of a larger attempt to prevent the virus from spreading, which also included temporarily closing non-essential shops and establishments such as bars and restaurants, gyms, kindergartens, and conference centers (among others).

However, the government’s message was clear: Tourists who had already chosen Oman as their holiday destination did not have to see this is as yet another missed opportunity in 2020, but rather as a delayed plan. 

On June 11, 2020, it was announced that all Omani visas granted between March and August 2020 would be extended until March 2021.

The sultanate was going in a different direction compared to many other countries that had decided to cancel tourist visas without the possibility of a refund.

On Oct. 1, 2020, the travel ban on commercial international flights was lifted and visas gradually started to be issued again. Although priority was given to work visas, foreigners from several countries were eventually allowed to apply for tourist visas once again, as long as they traveled to Oman as part of an organized tour. 

The tourism industry suffered greatly during the pandemic. Omani 3- to 5-star hotels saw their revenue drop by 60.2 percent this year and there were 53.9 percent fewer visitors occupying Omani accommodation compared to October 2019.

No visa needed for short-term visitors to Oman

Re-opening the borders was not enough to return Omani tourism to last year’s numbers. To further encourage holiday-makers to visit the Gulf nation, the Royal Oman Police announced in a tweet that citizens of 103 countries can enter Oman visa-free for trips of up to 10 days. The measure came into effect on Dec. 10, 2020.

Here is the translation of the original tweet: “‎In support of the tourist movement and to facilitate the tourists wishing to visit the sultanate, the Royal Oman Police announces that the nationals of 103 countries will be exempted from entry visas to the sultanate for a period of 10 days, according to the specified controls and conditions, including the presence of a prior and confirmed hotel reservation, health insurance, and a return ticket.”

The visa-free rule comes with some conditions that must be met by travelers:

• Maximum stay of 10 days

• Mandatory PCR testing at Muscat International Airport

• Mandatory health insurance cover for at least 1 month (in case the visitor requires hospitalization due to contracting COVID-19 and cannot leave the sultanate within 10 days)

• Return ticket or proof of onward travel

• Confirmation of accommodation booking (both hotel and rental accommodations are acceptable)

• Having downloaded the contact tracing app Tarassud. Those planning to stay longer than 7 days must also download the HMushrif app.

• Having filled out the pre-travel registration form in all of its parts

The cost of the PCR test — 25 Omani rials ($65) — must be borne by the international traveler, who can pay for the test via the app Tarassud before reaching Oman. Upon landing, they can show the confirmation HR code to the local authorities to fast track the test. 

Kids under 15 years of age are not required to take the test. Passengers must wait for the results in self-isolation. Results usually take between 12-24 hours. However, some travelers may be asked to quarantine for longer.

The Economic impact of COVID-19 in Oman

Financial challenges faced by Sultan Haitham’s government multiplied in 2020. At a moment when the country was trying to come to terms with already low oil prices and was working on a plan to diversify its economy, the pandemic and consequent worldwide shutdown exacerbated economic difficulties.

While growth is expected to contract by 3.5 percent, Oman cannot count on exports in the short-term future due to the pandemic. Experts warn that unemployment could go from 2.7 to 3.8 percent in 2021.

Following Sultan Haitham’s instructions, the government formed a committee tasked with the study of the economic impact of COVID-19. Among its first actions, the committee offered interest-free loans to businesses that suffered due to the pandemic.

Boosting international tourism will play an important part in the post-COVID-19 financial recovery plan. Other key sectors include gas and infrastructure. At the same time, nationalization rules are being relaxed in sectors such as construction and brick factories in the hope that the possibility of hiring expats will support the economy. 


LuLu offers great discounts & much more for Eid

LuLu offers great discounts & much more for Eid
Updated 09 May 2021

LuLu offers great discounts & much more for Eid

LuLu offers great discounts & much more for Eid

In anticipation of the Eid shopping rush among citizens and residents, regional retailer LuLu has launched a number of exclusive offers in its stores and on e-commerce platforms, including both its website and mobile app. Shoppers can benefit from great discounts, including more than 50 percent off, on a wide variety of products, from grocery to fresh food, mobile phones, fashion essentials, toys and much more. 

Shehim Mohammed, director of LuLu Hypermarkets Saudi Arabia, said: “This is our biggest promotion yet this year. It’s such a timely campaign coinciding with Eid, as we have seen a rising demand in shopping for grocery essentials and gadget upgrades, especially during this festive season. Shoppers can look forward to massive discounts on the majority of our product categories. Apart from extending delivery hours, we also increased our fleets to widen our reach across the Kingdom, even in the outskirt areas.” 

As the holy month is nearing its end, LuLu is all geared up with well-stocked stores and value promotions on cooking essentials that are commonly consumed during the much-awaited long weekend of feasting, as well as gifting supplies. Eid offers along with big promotions on groceries, garments and mobile phones are now available in stores.

With 209 stores operating worldwide, LuLu has always been committed to offering the highest quality products from around the world, along with a dynamic shopping experience through monthly festivals and special events.

Serving more than 1,600,000 shopping patrons every day, it is the fastest growing retail chain across 10 countries that include the GCC, India, Egypt, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Founded in the early 90s, it has successfully expanded to different parts of the world and currently operates with a staff of more than 57,000.


Amazon Payment Services partners with Zurich

Amazon Payment Services partners with Zurich
Updated 09 May 2021

Amazon Payment Services partners with Zurich

Amazon Payment Services partners with Zurich

Amazon Payment Services (APS), a payment processing services provider in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with a mission to empower businesses with simple, affordable, and trusted online payment experiences, has partnered with Zurich International Life Limited to offer digital payments for its customers in the Middle East on Zurich’s digital customer onboarding platform ZurichPro.

Zurich International Life Limited (a part of Zurich Insurance Group) is a multiline insurer providing a wide range of life, savings and investment solutions for multinational corporations, mid-sized and large companies, small businesses, and individuals in the Middle East.

Omar Soudodi, managing director of APS, said: “It is a privilege to be part of the digital transformation journey of Zurich International Life Limited, enabling them to become one of the first life insurance companies in the Middle East to launch an end-to-end digital payment and customer onboarding experience.”

Through the services provided by APS, Zurich’s customers can now digitally pay insurance premiums across all products in local currencies without incurring conversion fees with the highest levels of customer data security. 

Walter Jopp, CEO of Zurich in the Middle East, added: “Partnering with Amazon Payment Services has enabled us to provide a seamless digital payment experience for our customers that offers more payment flexibility while optimizing operating costs, ultimately benefiting the end customer. Zurich’s instant life and critical illness insurance solutions, YourLife and YourCare, can now be purchased online in a matter of minutes with absolute peace of mind.”

The digital payment integration delivers a safe and secure environment for receiving and processing customer data. APS acts as the single point of contact for managing Zurich’s digital payment needs, providing end-to-end support by interacting with various parties in a card payment ecosystem.

The new service has been available to customers in the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain since January this year.


AEC CEO extends Eid greetings to Saudi leadership

AEC CEO extends Eid greetings to Saudi leadership
Updated 09 May 2021

AEC CEO extends Eid greetings to Saudi leadership

AEC CEO extends Eid greetings to Saudi leadership

Ziad Al-Musallam, CEO of Advanced Electronics Company (AEC), a Saudi Arabian Military Industries company, extended sincere wishes in his name and on behalf of the company’s employees, to King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the people of Saudi Arabia, on the occasion of Eid Al-Fitr.

He prayed for the preservation of peace in all Arab and Islamic nations and for the Kingdom’s security, stability and prosperity.

Al-Musallam expressed appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s wise leadership and their extraordinary care in preserving public health and combating the novel coronavirus. He also thanked the leadership for promoting social cohesion within Saudi society, which he said is the true purpose of Eid.

Al-Musallam said that AEC strives to achieve the goals of the ambitious Saudi Vision 2030, promoting economic diversification and the non-oil economy as one of the vision’s main enablers. The company aims to provide digital solutions, intelligent platforms and technical support to upgrade the industrial sector and create new job opportunities.

The company’s leading position in electronics, technology, and industries, especially in the four primary sectors of defense and aerospace, information and communications technology, energy, and security, makes it a key player in achieving the vision’s objectives.


Virtual summit to explore GCC-UK trade opportunities

Virtual summit to explore GCC-UK trade opportunities
Updated 08 May 2021

Virtual summit to explore GCC-UK trade opportunities

Virtual summit to explore GCC-UK trade opportunities

British government figures indicate that the UK trade with the Middle East amounts to $57.2 billion annually, with the Gulf region accounting for $50.8 billion. The two regions are experiencing a time of advantageous trade opportunities and a period of rapid growth and diversification.

With so many opportunities for bilateral trade and investment, the upcoming virtual GCC-UK Trade Summit, organized by Add Enterprise International, will bring together commercial opportunities, experts, live projects, and potential suppliers to explore and encourage trade and investment over the next decade. The event, on June 29, will include the participation of more than 40 speakers and 400 attendees.

The GCC-UK Trade Summit aims to facilitate foreign direct investment, business, and trade between the GCC and the UK, providing a platform for businesses to expand into new markets and build networks. It will present some of the most prominent projects currently underway in the GCC, providing updates and highlighting investment and cooperation opportunities.

The summit will also host insightful discussions and presentations on subjects that are most relevant to the UK and GCC business communities, delivering key insights through expert speaker panels, case studies, sectoral analysis, high-level conversations, interviews, and networking opportunities.

Delegates will hear from a lineup of industry-leading figures, interviewers, and senior management of megaprojects including: Dr. Abdel-Aziz Aluwaisheg, assistant secretary-general for political and negotiation affairs, GCC; Jay Rosen, chief financial officer of The Red Sea Development Company and AMAALA; Julian Lynn, regional head, Middle East and Asia Pacific, UK Export Finance; Alistair Gosling, advisory board member, Qiddiya; Frank Kane, senior business editor and anchor of Frankly Speaking, Arab News; Khalid Al-Zayani OBE, chairman, Bahrain British Business Forum; and Saud Abu Al-Shawareb, managing director, Dubai Industrial City.

The agenda explores important topics including the GCC economies and investment overview, investing in the UK, stimulating economic growth and development, attracting foreign investment, environmental sustainability, future economic outlooks, and regional opportunity sector developments.

It will be held virtually via a dual-language English and Arabic event platform, Malga. Delegates will be able to choose which language they attend in to ensure a seamless, engaging and successful event of collaboration, business, and networking.

Tickets are now available via the Add Enterprise website.


French butter enhances iftar recipes this Ramadan

French butter enhances iftar recipes this Ramadan
Updated 08 May 2021

French butter enhances iftar recipes this Ramadan

French butter enhances iftar recipes this Ramadan

French butter is lauded as one of the true flavor enhancers of the world. It is now making its way into the most important meal of the day during Ramadan as chefs look to utilize the versatile ingredient through a range of iftar dishes.

One such chef is Ahmed Ali, head chef of Middle Eastern restaurant Ninive, who has developed an entire iftar menu using the finest French butter. The menu showcases how the 100 percent natural ingredient can be used in traditional and local recipes to make it more flavorful and colorful, transporting a classic dish into a taste sensation.

Discussing the benefits of using French butter in cooking, Chef Ali said: “For me, it is a mainstay whenever I’m cooking. Its versatility means I can use it any dish to elevate the taste, which was particularly relevant during this challenge to take the standard iftar menu and add a butter twist. 

“Because the manufacturing principles of French butter have remained the same for centuries, I know the ingredients’ quality remains at the very highest level therefore significantly adding to all attributes of the dish.

“With each dish on the menu, I used a range of techniques to incorporate the butter. For the soup, I whisked in the ingredient for a creamier finish while for the spiced carrot dukkah (an Egyptian spice blend), I blended it in for a richer consistency. I was also able to use butter to create a golden color on the chicken birwat.”

In addition, Chef Ali created a range of flavored butter with bread and roasted dates in butter to break the fast. Bread coated in butter and then placed in the oven accompanied a Fattoush salad. Baby gem lettuce and mujadara (a Middle Eastern lentils and rice dish) and sardines were given the butter treatment to add taste, color and consistency.

For the main course, Chef Ali panfried all meats with butter before being placed in the oven to create a succulent mixed grill. The vegetable tagine was sauteed in butter, creating a melt-in-the-mouth sensation rounded out by a fish sayadieh (a Lebanese fish and rice dish), onion rice, nuts and raisins, all enhanced by butter.

And what iftar would be complete without the staple dessert of Umm Ali? Chef Ali glazed the puff pastry in French butter to add to the taste and round off the menu.