Oman is relaxing its rules on multiple entry visas for certain countries in an effort to boost the economy.
As of July 20, people travelling from 38 countries to the Sultanate can now stay for three months at a time, rather than just three weeks.
Government officials hope the benefits of the extension to the visa will be two-fold — allowing investors more time to scout the country and giving tourists more time to spend money here.
Business leaders welcomed the news as a potential shot-in-the-arm to Oman but expats from India and other neighbouring countries — currently not included in the approved country list — feel they should also be allowed the benefit.
Inbound tourism to Oman in 2015 generated OMR250.9 million, according to the statistics from government web portal.
That's almost double the income recorded in 2005, reflecting the growth in demand for Omani tourism.
A third of travellers to Oman come for leisure and the rest for business, according to the official government statistics.
Tourists and investors alike faced fines under the old system, where they were allowed to stay for just 21 days on a first trip under the multiple entry visa.
The new three-month multiple visa means they can stay for two three-month periods within a year.
A media spokesman for the Royal Oman Police confirmed that the new rule was introduced on July 20 and anyone applying from a country on Oman's Country list 1 would be able to obtain it, at a cost of OMR50.
Some 38 countries' citizens are eligible for the new visa, including, the UK, most of central Europe, Ireland and parts of eastern Europe. India, Bangladesh and the Philippines citizens can apply for the extended visa but require a sponsor in Oman.
The decision was issued via the Ministry of Legal Affairs official website on July 19. There is no change in the cost.
"It was quite difficult for some visitors coming through multi-entry visa to finish their things in 21 days," said the ROP officer, adding that the extending decision will enable such visitors to avoid paying fines in case they exceed the 21-day limit.
In response to the ROP decision, Mohammed Hassan Al Ansi, vice-chairman of the Committee for Logistics and Transportation Affairs at the OCCI, welcomed the move, saying it will open up opportunities for investors to Oman and benefit the country's economy.
However, Al Ansi warned against the misuse of such facilities.
"It is an excellent decision but it has to have regulations. The decision also includes more countries than the 22 that are already determined. If you want to bring investors and experts, they have to visit the country, study the market and asses the situation; three weeks wouldn't be enough" said Al Ansi.
Saleh Saeed, the Head of the Economic Committee at the Majlis Al shura, said that this is a good move which will benefit the country from two sides. "Investors will get enough time to study the market and get good ideas about the economy of the Sultanate. Moreover, this will make the tourists stay longer and perhaps spend more in the Sultanate," said Saleh. He added that such a move is always welcomed.
"This will benefit the economy of the Sultanate and also make investors' lives easier when considering the Sultanate in their investment," said Saleh.
"I believe it is a good move but they should also look at letting the other, closer countries get the multiple entry visa," said Anvwar Al Balushi, Chairman of Anvwar Asian Investment Group.
© Muscat Media Group