TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How important do you consider the contribution of Oman’s heritage sites to the country’s overall tourism product?
JAMES HEWITSON: Considering Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara is directly next to Al Baleed Archaeological Park and Land of Frankincense Museum, I would say Oman’s heritage sites are extremely important to its overall tourism product.
Salalah’s history is rooted in the frankincense trade which can be retraced through the various archaeological ruins and tells one of the area’s most interesting stories.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What are tourism and culture stakeholders planning to do to further promote Oman’s cultural heritage?
JAMES HEWITSON: I think what makes Oman so special, particularly within the Middle East, is that the culture is still so alive through the people and, of course, the preservation of dedicated sites and traditional architecture. While other destinations in the Middle East have developed at a rapid pace, Oman still emulates the true spirit of Arabia. The government, tourism and culture stakeholders recognise this and are dedicated to the restoration and maintenance of the country’s archaeological gems, such as castles, forts and mosques.
Additionally, the addition of new visitor centres at Sumhuram archaeological site and Lost City of Ubar show that preserving these types of heritage sites remains an important focus of the overall tourism objectives.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: Which heritage attractions you would recommend to visitors?
JAMES HEWITSON: Our neighbour, Al Baleed Archaeological Park and Land of Frankincense Museum, is the first to come to mind due to its convenient proximity to the resort. The museum has a fantastic collection of artefacts that paint a vivid picture of Oman’s long historical legacy and maritime heritage. But there’s so much more to see in Salalah that gives a traveller a taste of everything. Along with heritage sites, Salalah offers the desert, mountains and some of the most unspoilt, beautiful beaches in the world. It’s the complete package of cultural and natural offerings that has made Salalah the newest must see destination.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: Where are the majority of your guests seeking to explore Oman’s tourism offering coming from?
JAMES HEWITSON: We are conveniently located as an ideal getaway for residents in the GCC, both expats and local. From around June to September is our famous monsoon season, known as Khareef, where the cooler temperatures and misty weather attract those wanting to escape the heat of the rest of the Middle East. The precipitation during Khareef also leads way to some of the most beautiful landscapes of lush, green mountains, flowing rivers and waterfalls.
From September to May, we are fortunate to have near perfect weather, which has attracted a lot of European visitors looking for beach and sun. With our private pool villas, our resort is perfectly equipped to serve both our European and Middle Eastern guests.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What souvenirs do you recommend to your guests to take back home with them to remember their Oman experience?
JAMES HEWITSON: Well, of course, frankincense as Salalah is known to have the best quality in the world. They can buy the actual resin and hand-crafted burner to bring that distinctive scent home. Or frankincense can be found in many different products from soaps and oils to edible products like gum and mouthwash.
There is so much to do in Salalah, that it is difficult to say where to visit. We really do have everything here for any type of traveller. In addition to all the culture, southern Oman offers fantastic fishing and diving as well as wildlife spotting, such as dolphins, turtles and birds. There is great hiking and water sports for the more active and sun lovers cannot get enough of the perfect, white sand beaches.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What are Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara’s expectations for this year?
JAMES HEWITSON: Having opened in November 2016, we were pleased with our first year in the market. Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara is the first and only resort in the Dhofar region to offer private pool villas and a new, heightened level of luxury. It was certainly a question as to whether this destination could attract a new category of discerning travellers. Our success during this first year and feedback from our guests has proven that Salalah is an excellent destination for any type of tourist.