Tuesday, April 11, 2006

So I went to Salalah

I stayed at the Hilton which was full of Swedish and Austrian tourists. The Hilton Salalah used to be a business hotel. Last time I stayed there it was quite empty and the only people who stay there are business people who choose it because it is close to the industrial estate. It is now marketed as a resort.

The Swedes come on charter flights direct from Stockholm which bring as many as 250 tourists to Hilton every Thursday. Some stay a week, some even stay two weeks.
I asked a cab driver about how business is these days with the hotels full of European tourists. He complained that there isn't much business from them. There's not much to do in Salalah but these tourists don't even venture out of the hotel very often. They mostly bake in the sun every single day morning till dusk. The guy in the hotel's souvenier shop echoed the same feelings. He said that these tourists don't spend much, they just come to relax. Most of them are retirees and they are on very tight budgets. I was surprised how everyone says that, especially since the Salalah Hilton is not exactly a budget hotel. Rooms usually go for around 80 rials a night. But I was even more interested to know why a European tourist would want to come and spend a couple weeks at a hotel right next to one of the busiest ports in the world in the world and an industrial estate. In fact from the view on one side of the Hilton's beach is of the cranes from port. One of the shop owners in the hotel told me that the Hilton sells its room in bulk to a Swedish tour company in advance for a year for just RO. 10 per night. I asked some business people in Salalah about this and they all said it's true. Just 10 rials a night! (though one of them claimed that they rate is actually 13 rials of which 3 rials is a subsidy from the Ministry of Tourism). The hotel gets the tourists cheap and then makes money from selling them food and beverages during their stay. Not a bad business model.

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The hotel has internet access in all rooms but it's at 5 rials an hour. Ouch! I went to their business center thinking I might get free access there to check my email but there it was 3 rials per 15 minutes.

Anyhow, if you're ever in the Salalah Hilton, you just have to try the food at the Palm Grove, the restaurant outside by the beach. It gets quite packed and you need a reservation, but the food is very very good.

I passed by the Crowne Plaza Resort the next day for luch and wow, it is definitely where I would stay next time I'm in Salalah. Last time I was in this hotel 8 years ago it was a dump. It's been totally redone and upgraded. I can't say anything about the rooms but I doubt they'd be as spacious as the rooms in the Hilton though the hotel has a true resort feel unlike the Hilton.


Interesting side story:

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I called house keeping to get a two-pin adaptor for my laptop. I asked the guy who brought it how come they don't keep these in all rooms since most of their guests are Europeans and most of their appliances are probably two-pin. He said they used to but most guests took the adaptors with them when they checked out. They lost two hundred adaptors before they decided to take them out of the rooms. How come people feel it's ok to take things from hotel rooms?

9 comments:

suonnoch said...

I think I might have an answer to that. I lived in Sweden over one winter. It gets very, very dark and very very cold even as far south as Stockholm. The Swedes like to get away for winter sun if they can. They're not interested in spending money, just finding the light and the heat. They're not necessarily the richest people either, although wealthy by Omani standards. They would probably also have the mentality that if two pin adaptors are on offer for free, the hotel can afford it - whether that's true, or fair, or not.

Ali said...

Salalah port is one of the busiest in the world? hows that!!?

muscati said...

I think in some rankings such as number of container moves per hour, Salalah Port holds some world records and is consistently ranked among the top ten in the world.

Mindazi said...

It is true -- I was involved in a deal at the administrative level at the Port of Long Beach, and one of their discussions on their efficiency problems included talk about Salalah. I was impressed.

Of course, when you have a workforce of corrupt union slobs you aren't going to move a lot of containers. Not that they admitted to these problems, of course. No wonder the unions were behind Hillary and her kind on the DPW issue... I better stop before I ruin the rest of my day.

NiGhTFaCe said...

No wonder they will be taking 10 Rials per night, its a dead season & what they are doing is good really!


Though people will take stuff like soaps/shampoos or maybe matchboxes. But, not adaptors :S

muscati said...

Nightface - they're selling the rooms for RO. 10 for the entire year, not just the off season.

OceanDream said...

I think hotels have come to expect you to take the soap/shampoo, etc. I know someone who collects hotel slippers from every hotel he visits :)

Adaptors is a no-no though!

NiGhTFaCe said...

The whole year?! They are losing the Khareef season then,

andrea-r said...

I'm from Germany and stayed in the Salalah Hilton in March 2007. Although wheather in Germany is not so different from Sweden (o.k., we don't have several months of darkness) I also wondered about the Swedish people not leaving the hotel.
We had 4 nights in Salalah (and 5 nights in Muscat) and that was not enough to see only half of all the interesting things in the town and it's surroundings. We went to the coast at Mirbat for sight-seeing and snorkeling, to Khor Rouri, did Bird-Watching, went to a sink hole, visited Hiob's Tomb (a important religious person for Christians as well) and had a look at the Souks in Salalah. Unfortunately the time was much too short to make a trip to the Empty Quarter and to the Francincense-trees.
Sun and summer-wheather are very nice, but for me traveling has to do with trying to get to know another country and it's people and culture. You can find nice affordable resorts in southern Europe as well...
I love your Blog - it helps me to understand more of everyday-life in Oman. I hope to come back one day!
Andrea