Tourists boat at Wadi Darbat in Salalah, Dhofar province, Oman Image Credit: REUTERS

Muscat: In a move to boost tourism, Oman has expanded the list of countries whose citizens can come to Oman on a non-sponsored e-visa.

Earlier this week Oman announced Indians, Russians and Chinese would be exempt from requiring sponsorship and on Thursday it added 25 more countries: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Albania, Uzbekistan, Iran, Panama, Bhutan, Bosnia, Peru, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Maldives, Georgia, Honduras, Salvador, Tajikistan, Guatemala, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Costa Rica, Laos, Mexico and Nicaragua.

The move comes as Oman aims to boost tourism revenues as the government has implemented various austerity measures to cope with the plunge in oil prices.

In 2016, Oman approved the National Strategy for Tourism 2040, which aims for a 6 per cent rise in the contribution of the tourism sector to the gross domestic product (GDP) and a target of five million visitors by 2040 — double of Oman’s current number of annual tourists (2.7 million).

Government spending this year is projected to total 11.7 billion riyals (Dh111.3 billion) and revenues 8.7 billion riyals, which would result in a deficit of 3 billion riyals.

Oman posted a budget deficit of 5.3 billion riyals in 2016, as revenues declined by more than 30 per cent.

Oman has smaller oil reserves and less of a cushion in government savings than its wealthier neighbours, making it vulnerable to the impact of lower oil prices that has depressed growth across the region.

Moody’s Investors Services cut Oman’s rating to its second-lowest investment grade in July, citing the country’s limited progress in addressing structural vulnerabilities.

Visa applicants from the 28 listed countries interested in travelling to Oman must have a passport valid for six months.

The applicants must also have a valid visa to the US, Canada, Australia, the UK or Schengen countries, at the time of application.

They must also have a return flight ticket and a confirmed hotel reservation in Oman.

The visa costs 20 Omani riyals and would be valid for a month.