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Professional paper

The birth of Oman’s tourism industry

Onn Winkler ; Department of Middle Eastern History, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel

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page 221-234

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Despite the fact that during the past four decades the tourism industry has emerged as one of the leading industries worldwide, in the Arab region, particularly in the GCC oil-exporting countries, it was largely neglected until the early 1990s (with the exception of Dubai). During the past decade, however, this traditional neglect and even negative attitude toward international tourism has changed remarkably and each of the GCC countries, even Saudi Arabia, started to promote international tourism. What led these countries to change their attitude toward international tourism? Why precisely in the 1990s? This paper aims to explore these questions regarding Oman -- the latest among the GCC countries to join the tourism “race.” Overall, during the past decade, Oman’s tourism industry rapidly expanded and became one of the Sultanate most pivotal non-oil sectors, specializing in eco-tourism and first class tourism. In light of this success, the tourism industry became one of the top targets of the Omani long-term socioeconomic plan, namely, “Oman 2020.” However, despite the immense Oman’s tourism expansion during the past decade, one cannot ignore the dangerous situation of the ongoing increasing competition with the other GCC countries in the arenas of both, intra-GCC tourism and Western tourism, as well as from the security-political factor which threatens the tourism industry all over the Arab region. The degree of future expansion of the Omani tourism industry would greatly depend on its ability to overcome these two fundamental problems.

Like delicate flowers thriving on the fertile soil found on the slopes of a volcano, Middle East tourism is thriving, despite the ever-present threats of war and terrorism. John Martin (2005, p. 35)


tourism; tourism development; tourism priority action plan; Oman

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