On June 19, 2017, the online electronic visa system announced earlier this year was launched in Oman, adding the Middle Eastern country to the growing list of nations that use e-visa systems to foment tourism. Royal Oman Police unveiled the new Omani e-visa system along with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah.
The Omani electronic visa system aims to encourage tourism and to reduce the total waiting time of prospective visitors to Oman, thus making it easier for foreigners to visit the country. People interested in visiting Oman simply have to fill out an online application and provide their personal details, travel information, and nationality. The entire process takes a few minutes, costs OMR 20 (about $50 USD) and successful applicants receive their travel authorization via email.
Approximately 3 million tourists visited Oman in 2016, and authorities expect the number to exceed 4.5 million by 2020.
“You can apply from anywhere in the world, and receive a visa in 5 minutes,” said a spokesperson for the Royal Oman Police. “All it takes are 3 steps. We hope to increase online visa procedures...to 98%.” (Currently, only 2% of all visa-related matters are processed online.)
Boost in Omani Tourism, Overall Economy
By digitalizing the visa system - thereby eliminating a necessary trip to an Omani consulate or embassy to pick up an approved visa - Oman has become easier for tourists hailing from all over the world to visit the country. It will also be easier for people to enter the country for business or to visit family, as overall waiting times will be reduced.
At a ceremony on Monday, Minister bin Abdullah said that the new program had 2 missions in mind. The e-visa system exists “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.”
With experts claiming that the Omani e-visa system is among the most sophisticated in the Gulf region, authorities also hope that this added convenience will translate into a significant boost in tourism.
As the Minister of Tourism Mr. Ahmed bin Nasser Al Mahrizi explains, “When it comes to the tourism sector, one of the most important components is the ease of travelling to the desired destination.”
Minister bin Abdullah considers the newly-implemented e-visa system to be a “massive project.” Saying that the Royal Oman Police was “proud” of the new program, he specifically praised its global scope.
“We hope that Oman will be a leading country in technology use and development, not in the far future,” Minister bin Abdullah explained.
The e-visa program could also be a huge boost to the country’s plans to diversify its economy. The hotel industry is experiencing significant growth according to the state media, and the number of rooms is expected to rise to 20,000 by 2020 and then hopefully 30,000 hotel rooms.
Future expatriates that own homes in Oman or who come to work will soon be able to renew or apply for a visa through the online portal, say authorities, adding to the groups of people who will benefit from the e-visa system.
Government Campaigns to Promote e-Visa
As part of a larger effort to coordinate with other sections of the economy, Royal Oman Police also announced that they would be starting a marketing campaign to promote the launch of the e-visa system. The government also plans on using an integrated system to help different tourism sections - hotels, travel agencies, etc. - work closely to improve security.
The Grand Hyatt Muscat, for example, already provides guests with the ability to arrange visas on their behalf. While this service was initially offered to Chinese, Russian, or Iranian clients - those that represented the biggest markets - hotels hope to offer this service to all clients in the near future.
Authorities hope that the e-visa system launched earlier this week will have its intended positive effect on the tourism industry and the country at large.