This month we have been catching up with Sonia Shaw of Shawtravel.com. Sonia is an expert in the Middle East luxury travel market having setup one of the first companies to offer holidays to Oman when visa restrictions were lifted in 2000. 14 years later Sonia continues to dominate this part of the travel sector offering tailor made holidays across Oman, in addition to offering bespoke packages to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Sonia, you have been creating tailor-made holidays to Oman for almost 15 years, tell us where your passion for this destination originated?
I lived and worked in Muscat during the early 1980’s. I also lived and worked in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait yet found Oman and her people the most hospitable and charming!
Over the years you must have observed a lot of changes, what has been the most significant to date?
Accessibility to all areas of the Sultanate, with an excellent infrastructure of roads, air transport and ferries.
What sets Oman apart as a holiday destination?
It is the opposite to its neighbours, understated, with low rise white washed buildings and proud people keen to show of all their Country has to offer. Oman is a deceivingly large country, with lots to offer. You can do anything from visiting the mountains to trecking the deserts and with fantastic coastal regions it is great for diving too.
Although both part of the UAE, Dubai seems to be in the limelight a lot more than Oman, why do you think this is and is it justified?
Dubai has marketed itself as a brand not a country!
Do you find many of your clients share your passion for Oman and visit more than once? If so do they diversify in what they do and see each visit?
Clients normally start with an introduction to Oman based in Muscat, and then venture into the Interior, further visits would include the exploration of North or Southern Oman
What type(s) of traveller is Oman best suited to and why?
All types, Oman has so much to offer!
As an Oman expert through and through please share with us your top tips to make the most of a holiday in Oman.
- Highlights would be an early morning visit to the Grand Mosque, before the cruise ship passengers arrive!
- Sunset cruise to experience the stunning coastline
- Spending a night under canvas in the Wahiba Sands, star gazing!
- I would recommend travellers try the local fish, delicious!
- An evening at the Royal Opera House to witness world renowned performers
Finally, how do you think Oman will evolve and adapt for visitors over the next five years?
The Sultanate is focusing on Tourism as a priority over the next five years, with a rail network in the planning as well as large brand hotels under construction, the opening of a Conference & Convention Center to attract businesses and the expansion of Muscat and Salalah ports to accommodate some of the larger cruise ships