Oman is looking to develop a new cruise port on its east coast as it targets a full cruise tourism recovery to pre-pandemic passenger numbers.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transport, Communications, and Information Technology said during the recent Seatrade Europe exhibition in Hamburg that the Sultanate was planning to establish a small cruise port or medium-sized ships.
“The ministry wants to establish a harbour in the wilayat of Sur, South Sharqiyah, with the aim of berthing yachts as well as small and medium sized ships,” he said.
The comments came after The Ministry of Heritage and Tourism confirmed that it is actively looking to forge government and private sector partnerships to drive cruise traffic to the sultanate.
In an interview with Oman’s state news agency Khalid Mohammed Al Azri, Director of Tourism Patterns Department at the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism said Oman has succeeded in attracting major cruise lines to the Sultanate and wants to get cruise tourism numbers back up to the pre-pandemic level of 280,000.
The Port of Salalah, the Port of Sultan Qaboos in Muscat and the Port of Khasab are all popular with cruise lines. Khasab is primarily used as a port call on the itineraries of cruise lines homeporting in Dubai and sailing roundtrip 7-night Arabian Gulf cruises during the winter season.
Muscat and Salalah are important cruise destinations for cruise ships repositioning between the Middle East and Europe at the beginning and end of each cruise season.
Oman is also studying various sites along the coast to offer for investment as marina destinations to promote yacht tourism in the country as well.
“The ministry will offer several sites to the private sector to invest along the Omani coast after determining the best places for berthing yachts and setting up allied services,” a government spokesperson said.
The move to establish a boutique cruise port in Sur mirrors efforts undertaken by Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE to position itself as a niche cruise tourism destination for smaller cruise ships.
While most cruise vessels calling in the UAE and Oman, and particularly those homeporting in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, exceed 180,000 gross tons, Ras Al Khaimah caters to vessels under 100,000 gross tons, particularly expeditionary and luxury cruise ships.
The Middle East is growing in popularity as a luxury and premium cruise option, with Seabourn, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas, and Windstar all cruising to and from the UAE annually.
This coming cruise season, Windstar, which operates small, yacht-like cruise ships, will homeport in the Arabian Gulf for the first time.