Oman keen on India's slice Of MICE
After seeing tremendous response from India's leisure market, Oman is keen to attract the MICE business from here. With focus on incentives and big-ticket events, the Oman Convention Bureau intends to ease rule and regulations
Just over a year old now, close to completing two years of existence, the Oman Convention Bureau is a department under the Ministry of Tourism, Sultanate of Oman that was created purely to focus on attracting MICE business to Oman. It not only looks after developing MICE opportunities in Oman but also improving them, easing the rule and regulations as well as facilitate prompt communication between the private sector and the government.
This indicates Oman's seriousness of developing and promoting itself to the MICE market. The bureau is now preparing to tap the India market aggressively. On his first sales visit to India recently, Khalid Al Zadjali, Director, Oman Convention Bureau, met key MICE operators and corporate companies in Mumbai and New Delhi to explore strategic partnerships with them. He says, “The idea is to have strategic partnerships with a couple of key travel companies here in India and discuss how we can work together. The next step is to bring Oman suppliers to India with a focus on MICE.”
The bureau has made a plan that outlines the major source markets and India figures prominently in it. “India is one of the major source markets that we will focus on in the next three to five years. It already figures in the top five international markets for us. When we talk about India, we talk about the incentive market – it is really strong. The incentive groups are always looking for something unique something new and this is something that Oman can offer. Even Indian weddings have become popular here and the largest group that we have handled so far is 1,100 people,” Zadjali says.
The first phase of the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) located opposite the airport opened last year. This included the exhibition hall with a total area of 22,000 sqm that can be divided in five halls. It also has 10-12 meeting rooms around it, which is
In the last five years, Oman has witnessed 82 per cent growth in Indian arrivals
already doing well. Phase two will be completed by second quarter of 2018 that will include the convention hall. This hall will be a dome structure and will be able to seat 3,200 pax in theatre style. “It will have the latest AV facilities. There will be 35-40 meeting rooms above that as well. This will take the total number of meeting rooms in this centre to 45. Attached to this will be two hotels – JW Marriot and Crown Plaza,” Zadjali adds.
JW Marriot will be a five-star property with 300 rooms, and walking distance from it will be the Crown Plaza Hotel which is a four-star property with 600 keys.
This will be operational by October 2017. These hotels will complement the world-class OCEC facility once they get started. In fact, the OCEC has already booked big-ticket events such as the upcoming UNWTO event in December 2017. “We have also won two other huge international congresses. One is the World Cancer Congress in 2020 that will see about 4,500 to 6,000 attendees. So in all, this development includes the convention centre, two star hotels, and two big ballrooms that will come up in the second phase. All this is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2018. We expect the ballrooms to taken up by functions and weddings, etc,” Zadjali adds.
INCENTIVE IS HUGE
According to him, India's incentive market is strong which is good for Oman since it can offer a lot of options. “Why Oman? There are so many reasons. It is close to India with just a 2.5 hour flight to Muscat. The connectivity is amazing with roughly around 200 flights per week. Culturally, we are very similar. Moreover, we offer value for money when it comes to incentives. We have so many activities to do that you can actually make a 14-day itinerary with different activities to do everyday,” he says. Plus, big groups are not a problem for Oman. Zadjali expects to be ready with a variety of options for hotel rooms with about 3,000 more rooms coming up between 2017 and 2018. There are also other infrastructure and tourism projects within the ninth five-year development plan 2016-2020 that the Oman Tourism Strategy will reinforce.
The Oman Convention Bureau does offer groups incentive programmes but they are all tailormade with no fixed slabs. So the level of incentive will depend up on the size of the group, their spending power, the itinerary, total budget, etc. Zadjali says, “We also offer assistance from the logistics side. First we study the economic impact that the group will make for Oman and then decide on a case to case basis. While we can cater to all budgets, Oman is truly an experience that we can offer to the MICE segment. It has a wow factor with an authentic Arabian experience.” Offbeat activities here include dolphin watching and turtle watching.
Khalid Al Zadjali