Muscat makes its mark ….
Oman is a growing tourist destination and the airport is expanding to handle demand.***Double digit passenger growth at Muscat International Airport (formerly called Seeb International) has meant that expansion has become necessary to accommodate future needs. As a result of fleet and route expansion by the national carrier Oman Air, and increases in capacity and frequency by other carriers, a new terminal building is under construction and will be operational in late 2014.
The expansion will also ease pressure on the existing passenger terminal building in terms of passenger processing especially at peak times and ensure that comfort standards are maintained. Well that is the theory anyway.
Some changes have already been made. A pier adjacent to the departures terminal building that can accommodate 3,000 passengers was built and opened in April 2009. It provides an additional 17,000 square metres of space and retail stores across two levels. In typical lavish style for the Middle East, the first floor interior is a combination of marble and carpeted floors, with Omani-themed decor.
Given that Muscat processes less than seven million passengers, the departures retail offer revolves around one large duty free store, and some smaller units, rather than a fully fledged retail mall. There are seven shops in total, plus an arrivals store. Under name Muscat Duty Free, these stores are operated by Oman Sales & Service, established in 2003 as a joint venture with a subsidiary of Ireland’s Aer Rianta which has a very strong presence in many other airports in the region including Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Lebanon and Qatar.
That regional, but also international, experience means that the product sourcing at Muscat is good, and up to date, and the offer has been greatly enhanced since 2003 according to some sources. The main duty free store, opposite gate four on the ground floor has a very comprehensive shopping offer from perfumery, cosmetics, jewellery, fashions and accessories to liquor, tobacco, confectionery, food, photo-electronic products, and, of course, gold.
At Muscat Duty Free, there is a strong emphasis on travel retail exclusive products, especially in beauty, and offers designed to target gift buyers so expect to see at least one event to promote these kinds of products taking place when you pass through. A recent opening in early 2012 was a freestanding store from jewellery brand Equss, whose range extends to handbags, small leather and watches in addition to Pure Gold Groups eyewear outlet, La Moda Exclusives, showcasing luxury brands including Prada, Gucci, Emporio Armani, Chloé and Nina Ricci.An exclusive Omani heritage area, which is not just a souvenir shop is definitely worth investigating for interesting artefacts. This area and the recently-opened Amouage perfume shop in the departures pier have become major attractions for passengers and they also support locally-production (Amouage is a very high-end perfume brand from the Middle East).The arrivals outlet is useful as a last chance opportunity to pick up duty free goods before entering or returning to the country and is also proving popular. Additional services have been extended to pre-ordering allowing customers to order something they like while passing through departures but collecting it from arrivals on their return, or vice versa.
In the extra retail space of the pier, as well as the Amouage outlet there is a Bijoux Terner store which is an affordable fashion accessories outlet for woman, plus a last-minute shop where the key duty free categories like cosmetics or wines and spirits can be bought just before boarding. There is also an attractive promotions podium mainly used for luxury perfume brands to show off their latest launches.
Last but not least, there are also two WHSmith stores: one in departures and one in arrivals. As well as carrying the using convenience products they have a wealth of books and information on Oman, Omani traditional products, toys and the region’s world-famous frankincense.
See our guide to your duty free allowances Sultanate of Oman Duty Free AllowancesFactfile
- Passenger numbers, 2011: 6.5 million, up +12.7% on 2010
- Terminals: Single terminal with a total of 32 stands and a new one under construction and planned to open in 2014
- Airlines: Just under 30 serving 56 destinations in 28 countries. The biggest carriers (by number of routes) are Oman Air, Air India, Air India Express, Jet Airways and Saudi Arabian Airlines.
- Worth knowing: The airport regularly runs a string of duty free raffles covering things like bikes (a Harley Davidson Dyna Super Glide no less), fancy cars, plus a $50,000 cash raffle. Tickets cost approximately $30 to $100 depending on the prize. So if you are feeling lucky…
And for other Tax Free Travel guides to the Gulf ….