MUSCAT: Salalah remains popular with European travellers even after the Khareef season, due to the charter flights that operate once the peak period draws to a close.

From September 2013 till June 2014, around 8,000 tourists from seven European cities visited Salalah. And, more than 200 would be arriving every week on chartered flights till June 2015, giving a boost to the local tourism industry, irrespective of the peak season.

After the success of last year’s charter flight operation to Salalah from the seven cities, German travel operator FTI has started the service again this year and has added two new connections, one from Leipzig and another from Frankfurt.

Between September 2013 and June 2014, FTI flew in about 8,000 tourists from Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Berlin Tegel, Zürich and Vienna via Izmir, which acts as a small hub for the operation. Speaking to Muscat Daily, Elia Gad, FTI Group destination director Middle East, said, “The occupancy rate of our charter flights reached over 95 per cent. All in all we carried about 8,000 tourists to Salalah. It is a new destination for the European market and our guests enjoyed the high quality of Salalah’s beaches, the Indian Ocean, the luxurious hotels and rich possibilities to discover the Omani culture and landscape.

“The fact that for reaching such an exotic destination the flying time is very less and that there is almost no time shift are points that our guests rated as positive.”

Due to the popularity of charter flights, Gad expects an increase during the 2014-15 season too and has added Leipzig as a new takeoff destination. “We have added two new flight connections to our charter portfolio. We gathered a new SunExpress connection from Leipzig via Antalya. To increase the capacity from Frankfurt we picked up another SunExpress flight via Antalya in addition to our existing connection via Izmir,” he said. The new connections via Antalya come with added advantage as it does not involve changing flights.

“On our flights via Izmir, passengers have to change aircraft. But both our additional connections this season stop at Antalya only to fuel up; passengers don’t have to change their carrier. With this we want to offer more comfort and decease arrival duration which is nearly equal to direct flight times,” said Gad. To promote the destination, the company has been running marketing campaigns.

“We promote news from Salalah a lot within the German speaking market. Recently, we ran a successful campaign including marketing channels from FTI, Facebook and TV. Within the media sector we make use of lots of publications. “We will also organise a tour for German journalists to visit Oman and Salalah during the spring of 2015. “Therefore we are very optimistic with our charter flights and the opening of the Salalah Rotana Resort with over 400 rooms,” Gad added.