Salalah Crisis

August 25, 2012

Salalah has always been an attractive tourist destination, especially for GCC nationals. You would think that this knowledge of the large number of tourists heading towards Salalah every monsoon season, there would be sufficient preparations to meet their demands. This assumption shamefully stands incorrect, especially this season.

Recently, social media buzzed with photos of shockingly long lines of cars in petrol stations on the way leading to Salalah, waiting nervously for their turn as pumps run out of petrol. Others weren't lucky enough to make it to a petrol station and were left stranded under the burning sun, in the middle of the desert.

Those who were lucky enough to fill their tanks and arrive at Salalah, had to deal with yet another problem, the suffocating traffic. Because this year's monsoon season falls in the Eid holidays, the number of cars heading to Salalah is unusually big.

Then comes the hunt for a place to stay. People who did not make reservations weeks or even months prior to their visit, were left stranded, forced to camp outside or even seek a local to host them.

Oman's nature and heritage qualify the country to be a major tourist attraction. However, small mistakes in forecast, planning and implementing can cost the country a lot.

How did the Ministries of Tourism and Oil and Gas not see an increase in the demand for petrol coming? With departments especially dedicated to economic and tourism forecasts, such a mistake is unforgivable.

The problem does not only lie in the lack of petrol, but also in the lack of sufficient hotels, apartments and houses for tourists.

There is no point in advertising for Oman as a tourist destination if the people responsible for developing it to be suitable for receiving tourists are not doing their job right. Before spending millions on promoting tourism in Salalah, for example, it only makes sense to work on preparing it to receive large number of people.

It is very important to encourage businessmen in Oman to concentrate their efforts in areas that attract tourists. Building hotels, apartment buildings and opening shops does not only benefit Oman's economy and its tourists, but also the businessmen themselves. It is a win-win situation.

Some people believe that businesses in Salalah are only lucrative in the monsoon season and tend to incur losses during the rest of the year. The truth is, just like how forecasting and planning can avoid problems such as the petrol crisis caused by a sudden increase in demand, it can also help prevent losses due to a decrease in demand during the rest of the year.

People responsible for tourism in Oman must be extremely careful with the image that Oman has worked so hard building. That image can be, in a week or two, and with the help of social networks, be damaged for a simple  mistake.