Socio-cultural impacts of large-scale cruise tourism in Souq Mutrah, Sultanate of Oman
The following paper explores socio-cultural impacts of large-scale cruise liner tourism on the traditional bazaar (souq) in the district of Mutrah. The souq is located opposite the port in the Omani capital Muscat. Large-scale cruise tourism in Muscat started only in 2004 and has increased in scale and numbers in the past years. 24 cruise vessels with around 7600 passengers arrived in Muscat in 2005. Seven years later 135 cruise liners carrying 257,000 tourists docked in Muscat. Due to this dramatic rise of international cruise ships, the socio-cultural impacts have increased for local residents, shop vendors/owners and tourists alike. To capture those socio-cultural impacts on Souq Mutrah, a survey of cruise tourists was conducted by a questionnaire. In addition, the researcher used participatory observation, counting, and in-depth interviews with different stakeholders of the local community and different types of tourists during the cruise seasons 2012/13 and 2013/14. Moreover, content analysis of statistics and local media publications were used. Results indicate that the souq has become “the core of a tourist bubble”, where crowding is a major problem and local residents avoid the place. The social carrying capacity of the souq has been reached. Omani vendors are leaving their businesses and renting their shops out to expatriates. Since contemporary cruise tourists are low spenders, expatriate shop sellers have become more aggressive.
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