Boosting ecotourism in Oman

01 July 2011 | News story

For many years the rich biological and cultural diversity of Oman has been a major draw card for tourists but now eco-tourism is being given a special boost thanks to a project between IUCN and the Omani Ministry of Tourism.

In line with the Ministry’s efforts to increase ecotourism and ensure more socially and environmentally-responsible tourism operations in general, IUCN’s Regional Office for West Asia (IUCN ROWA) is providing the necessary technical help and guidance. A pilot project is under way in Bandar Khiran, an area which was assigned by a Royal Decree as a public ecotourism site.

Bandar Khiran, with its coastal cliffs and narrow sandy beaches is home to mangroves, sand and mud flats, and well-developed coral reefs. Valued for its coastal and marine biodiversity, white-cheeked terns, sooty falcons, green and hawksbill turtles are among the species that nest here. There are important unexplored archaeological sites and the sheltered bays offer excellent recreational opportunities—water skiing is particularly popular.

Visitors from various countries and backgrounds are drawn to Bandar Khiran for leisure and adventure. But the tourism activities are expected to cause friction between visitors and local communities, particularly where foreign customs may clash with local traditions and cultures. It is important that the use of Bandar Khiran is properly organized and managed to ensure that visitor activities do not harm the environment.

IUCN, in its work to promote sustainable local and national economic development, is strengthening the capacity of governmental and non-governmental institutions in the areas of eco-tourism planning and natural resource management. It believes that involving communities and the various interest groups is key to success.

Several missions to Oman have been undertaken by an IUCN ROWA team with the Omani Ministry of Tourism to prepare the eco-tourism and site management plans for Bandar Khiran.

For more information contact:

Mohammed Eltayeb mohamed.eltayeb@iucn.org