Travel takes off again

tourism - April 27, 2022

Muscat – Airlines and airports in Oman are currently witnessing their busiest months since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sultanate and other countries lifted travel restrictions in the first quarter of this year.

The number of international flights that landed at and took off from Muscat International Airport surged more than 72 per cent to 6,080 during the first two months of 2022 from 3,530 in the same period of 2021, data released by National Centre for Statistics and Information showed.

After over 20 months in which the travel and tourism industry was crippled by the pandemic, Oman’s airports and operating airlines are now attracting more passengers than at any time since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020.

The total number of passengers at Muscat airport increased 67.6 per cent in the first two months of 2022 to over 789,000 compared to 471,000 recorded in the corresponding period last year when most of the world was grappling with the second wave of COVID-19.

More than 429,000 people arrived in Oman through Muscat airport in January–February this year, marking the strongest months for travel in the sultanate since March 2020.

Over 357,000 international passengers departed from Muscat airport in this period, a year-on-year rise of 45 per cent.

Passenger numbers were mainly boosted by the easing of border restrictions at the beginning of this year.

“Things are getting better. It’s evident that more and more travellers are flying these days for business and pleasure. The number of flights have increased; both legacy and budget carriers have started operating now,” said Sunil D’Souza, CEO of Travel Point.

However, passenger numbers are still far below the pre-pandemic levels seen in 2019.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) and World Travel and Tourism Council do not expect the global travel and tourism to reach pre-pandemic levels before 2023.

“Although IATA says it might be 2023 before we can reach 2019 levels, if the current trend continues, we could reach 85-90 per cent of the 2019 level in 2022 itself,” D’Souza predicted.

He said a large number of people in Oman are travelling for business, to visit their home countries, and for holiday/leisure. “All these combined will certainly grow manifold compared to the previous years.”

Salalah Airport saw 458 international flights in the first two months of this year which is more than double the 193 international flights recorded in the same period of 2021. The number of international passengers at Salalah Airport more than tripled to over 55,000 this January–February compared to nearly 18,000 passengers in the corresponding period last year.

Sohar Airport witnessed the arrival and departure of 85 international flights in the first two months of this year with the total number of passengers reaching 15,310 during this period.

“As travel gains momentum, with more and more flights across the skies, pent-up demand for travel is making airlines register high flight loads. These factors are also contributing towards higher air fares,” D’Souza said.


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