The "Discover Oman" pavilion, which travelled throughout France and to the UK alongside the Oman Air-Musandam Multi One Design 70 trimaran during the last two racing seasons, has been exceptionally popular at the Transat Jacques Vabre race village, with thousands of visitors passing through to learn more about Oman and what it has to offer tourists.
"We have had a very sophisticated level of visitors to the tent this week," said Ghaniya Al Maawali, who has been manning the exhibition throughout the week and leading the marketing team from Oman, supported by staff from the Ministry of Tourism of Oman in Paris.
"At previous events, the traditional henna artist, coffee and dates have been the main attraction, but here the information packs about the country have been flying out the door and questions have been very targeted with regards to attractions in the country and what to do while there. Awareness of Oman Air and the direct flight from Paris to Muscat was also high," she added.
The numbers speak volumes. The 10-person "Discover Oman" team has distributed 900 Oman Air umbrellas — a number that might have much to do with the torrents of rain that the low-pressure systems rolling in from the North Atlantic have dropped on Le Havre. A large number of people have entered the 'Visit Oman competition', with 3,000 registered so far, and just yesterday 1,000 people entered the competition. The footfall through the tent is estimated at over 10,000 people — and that is without counting the number of race village visitors on Sunday. The event organisation has a 300,000-visitor target for the week.
The team has distributed five kilogrammes of Omani dates, almost 1,000 brochures about the country, 5,000 info packs and bags of promotional material, almost 5,000 Oman Air-Musandam posters, 500 caps to children and has used 50 pieces of henna.
Maitha Al Mahrouqi, undersecretary of Ministry of Tourism and chairwoman of Oman Sail, travelled from Oman to visit the team, presented the Sultanate of Oman national flag to the Oman Air-Musandam crew, and wished them safe passage and fair winds.
"I have heard so much about this race that I didn't want to miss the opportunity to come and see it for myself. It is a great honour to be representing the government of Oman and Oman Sail at such an important race.
"Crossing the Atlantic and touching two different continents is very important for us, particularly as both France and Brazil are key markets. Flying the Sultanate of Oman's flag throughout the race and having Oman's national carrier, Oman Air, represented is an added value for us.
"I was on the boat yesterday hearing the sailors' stories and their thoughts on the race, I really wish them the best of luck. I know they are very passionate about what they do and we are really happy and proud to have them onboard and racing under the flag of Oman. I wish them both the very best of luck."
David Graham, CEO of Oman Sail, was also on site in Le Havre to wish Damian Foxall and Sidney Gavignet fair winds. "The Transat Jacques Vabre is a milestone for Oman Sail. It's an iconic event and very popular with the French public, which is important for us as France is a key market for Oman, as is Brazil, although more from a trade perspective. We are absolutely delighted to have a presence here," he said.