Oman’s new e-visa online portal is the most sophisticated in the Gulf, experts say, and will help shape the future of tourism in the country.
In five minutes flat, for OMR20, tourists can have a visa to visit Oman delivered to their email inbox. Previously, they had to stand in long queues at the airport awaiting a visa on arrival.
“You can apply from anywhere in the world and receive the visa in five minutes. All it takes are three steps. We hope to increase online visa procedures from two per cent online, as it currently stands, to 98 per cent online,” a Royal Oman Police spokesman said.
Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, called the Royal Oman Police e-visa service “a massive project,” adding “There is no doubt that this is something we are proud of, because it is a massive project. The ease and development of visa procedures will be inclusive of the world, of all five continents,” the minister said.
“What we saw on screen indicates the importance of using these programmes, firstly to protect those coming into and leaving the country, and to help tourists spend as long as they can in the country without complicated procedures, as well as entrepreneurs, students, researchers and others.
“This is a result of the stability that the country is witnessing, as well as the development the country has seen, as well as the new horizons of electronic services that have been transformative for the next generation. Inshallah, we hope that Oman will be a leading country in technology use and development, not in the far future, and we congratulate the Sultan on this accomplishment as one of his first directives to Omanis. “The purpose of the Omani renaissance is to push the residents of Oman to a developed nation, which we are witnessing today.”
Ahmed bin Nasser Al Mahrizi, the Minister of Tourism, said hassle-free travel was very important globally, adding: “When it comes to the tourism sector, one of the most important components is the ease of travelling to the desired destination.
“The most important issues are the visa procedures. Today, a project has been launched that is singular in nature, which will create a push for ease in getting a visa. We are witnessing a large growth in the tourism sector, which has exceeded the goals that were written for it. We have reached three million visitors last year, and we expect to reach 4.7 million visitors by 2020.”
The hotel industry is experiencing large growth as well, and the number of hotel rooms is expected to exceed 20,000 by 2020, and hopefully reach 30,000 rooms, the minister added.
“This large growth should be met with an ease in procedures for arriving to Oman and receiving a visa. It will hopefully also create a push for new markets in the country, whether it’s the Chinese market, or the Russian market, or the United States market,” the minister said.
“These are markets that are very important in tourism. We expect that this is a curving point for the tourism sector. We will start a marketing campaign with regards to the e-visa launch, with our agencies in the country and abroad.”
Royal Oman Police Brigadier General Hilal bin Ahmed Al Busaidi said: “All of these transactions will be through an integrated system, which will reduce visitors to physical service portals, both in the General Directorate of Passports and Residence, and the other various departments.”
The e-visa portal will take payment and issue visas for tourists to Oman. Until now, visitors faced long queues at the airports to obtain a visa on arrival. The fee is OMR20, or OMR5 for residents of any GCC country.
In the near future expats who own homes here or people coming to work will also be able to use the site, as will sponsors, once they register online.
“This will contribute to the growth of the Omani economy and qualify Omani staff to work in a project of a global nature, in terms of technical skills and technical knowledge, in cooperation with all relevant bodies, whether in the government or private sector,” Al Busaidi added.
A spokesman for EY Oman, a business advisory company, said the system was more sophisticated than anything else other Gulf countries have to offer.
Mohammed Nayaz. Partner at EY, said: “The new system can trim visa application time to five minutes while helping the government to streamline tourism potential of the country through a comprehensive network between tourists and tour operators in the Sultanate.
“The portal is designed to accelerate the process of application. The policy or visa requirements haven’t changed. It is only to ease entry barriers that were present previously.
“The important factor about this portal is that it is comprehensive in all aspects. It will help the ministry streamline their tourism offerings by understanding what tourists want from their visit.
“Other countries in the GCC don’t have this. They only have the visa application process automated but Oman now has the whole tourism process automated comprehensively.” Mohammed Nayaz, Partner at EY said.
“We are already registered to this portal. This is likely to accelerate the application process and also help the government to understand who is coming into the country before they actually come in,” Riyaz Kuttery at Mazoon Travels said.
A spokesman for the Grand Hyatt Muscat said: “The Ministry of Tourism with the collaboration of the Royal Oman Police have stepped up their efforts to facilitate the procedure of Online visa application through Hotels from 3 , 4 and 5 star Rating and Tour operators and Direct Portal.
As of May 23, 2017, the mentioned hotel categories are able to sponsor individual and Group visitors travelling to Oman with the coordination of the ROP.
At this stage, Grand Hyatt Muscat is working with potential agencies that are able to handle such governmental services, to provide the guests with an added value when booking and asking for visa arrangements. Recently, the sponsored visa facilitations were offered for the largest single travel markets in the world China, Russia and Iran to be offered Visa through either the ROP portal or Hotels. Such announcement will be capitalised by the Touristic businesses that have a large share of these nationals or hope to penetrate those new markets.”
Source: http://timesofoman.com, 19 June 2017
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