The Sultanate of Oman's Ministry of Tourism announced that Salalah's annual Khareef Festival will be held until the end of September, 2010. Large numbers of visitors are expected to travel to Salalah, the capital of Dhofar Province and the country's second largest city, during the Al Khareef season. According to a recent report by the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism to the Sultanate of Oman is set to reach USD 7 billion by 2019.
The Khareef Festival, which starts in June, is held in the mountains of southern Oman to celebrate the monsoon. Previous festivals have included a 3 kilometre carnival area with 1,000 carnival participants, games, rides, international cuisine and concerts. Last year a shopping festival was added. The expatriate community of Oman, including a wide variety of different nationalities, participate in the Festival.
"Visitors to Salalah during the Khareef Festival are attracted to the region for the variety of activities, cultural displays and family friendly atmosphere. Salalah also attracts tourists due to the attractive coastline, mountains, valleys and pleasant temperature. This year we have focused on heavily promoting these aspects of the festival. We are expecting growth in the numbers of visitors coming to the region," said Salem Al Mamari, Oman's Ministry of Tourism Director General of Tourism Promotions.
Numbers of tourists to Salalah have remained positive over recent years as a result of substantial tourism infrastructure developments and investment. There has been significant recent infrastructure investment in the Port of Salalah and Salalah's UNESCO protected frankincense sites. Salalah's Khareef Festival is part of the Oman Ministry of Tourism's ongoing efforts to boost tourist numbers and increase the contribution of the tourism industry to GDP to not less than 3 per cent.
In preparation for the Khareef Festival, Oman Air has increased numbers of flights scheduled over the summer, and is one of the main sponsors of the Festival. Large numbers of visitors from UAE, in particular, are expected, with last year drawing more than 72,000 Emiratis during the season. To accommodate these large numbers of visitors, Oman Air is offering flights from Ras Al Khaimah three times per week during the Khareef Festival season. Salalah is located about 1,040 kilometres from Muscat, and is well connected to the rest of the country and also to neighbouring countries via flights.
Oman has long been a popular destination among regional and international tourists for its natural beauty such as the beaches, caves in the Oman Mountains, Jabal Qara, and reefs around the Daymaniyat Islands. Festive annual celebrations are a major attraction in both the capital Muscat, and Salalah; two of the most prominent and popular tourist cities in the country.