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November 11, 2009


The annual Muscat Festival 2010, due to be held for a month from early January, has been cancelled due to fears over the spread of swine flu.


Engineer Sultan bin Hamdoun Al Harthy, chairman of Muscat Municipality and head of the Muscat Festival Organising Committee, said in a statement: “Being a major event Muscat Festival is attended by thousands of visitors from different countries and we think relevant measures that could reduce gatherings at public venues to ensure health and safety of members of society should be taken.”


The Muscat Festival is the biggest annual event in Oman. Held at multiple venues around the city, it is hugely popular with the residents of Oman, registering more than a million visitors every year.


The threat of swine flu has received mixed reaction from tourism leaders. Meeting Professionals International (MPI) has told its members on its website that the swine flu situation must be “monitored closely”, but according to a statement issued by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) there is “no need for panic”.


“WTTC would like to stress that the level of preparedness for such a pandemic within the industry is much better than most people realise, since mechanisms to deal with global health risks have been stepped up considerably since SARS and bird flu last tested the resilience of the travel and tourism industry,” WTTC said in a statement earlier this year.


Some in the local events industry have expressed doubts over the need to cancel events over swine flu fears. Jeroen Berghuis, general manager, Vok Dams Middle East, said: “We have not had to cancel any of our events [due to swine flu]. We do risk assessments together with doctors or institutions. The risk as of now in the World Health Organisation is not saying that people should stop flying or visiting events.


“Here in this region they are prone to overreactions, you often see a kind of knee-jerk reaction to things – something happens and they say lets cancel everything. I think that is just an excuse as people want to save money.”


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