TOURISM

Oman - A Nation on the Move - - Contents -

The gov­ern­ment is mak­ing tourism a cen­tral plank of its eco­nomic strat­egy, with mega plans to en­hance its ap­peal among tourists from across the globe with a se­ries of ini­tia­tives such as bet­ter air con­nec­tiv­ity, air­port fa­cil­ity, ho­tels and re­sorts, and e-visa fa­cil­ity. The whole idea is to help the coun­try ma­ture from be­ing an ‘emerg­ing’ tourism mar­ket into an es­tab­lished one with a high-vol­ume of re­peat guests and a di­verse range of feeder mar­kets.

An am­bi­tious stride to­wards mak­ing tourism one of the most sig­nif­i­cant in­come gen­er­a­tors in the Sul­tanate has been the 2040 Tourism Strat­egy which pro­vides a com­pre­hen­sive blue­print for tourism de­vel­op­ment in Oman and out­lines a se­ries of tar­gets for the coun­try’s tourism sec­tor. The strat­egy un­veiled by the Min­istry of Tourism is a clearly de­fined and struc­tured road map for fu­ture growth aimed at mak­ing tourism one of the most im­por­tant eco­nomic pil­lars for the coun­try’s fu­ture. The im­ple­men­ta­tion of tourism strat­egy

would avail more than 500,000 jobs by the end of 2040, with the to­tal in­vest­ment in the sec­tor ex­pected to touch Ro19bn of which only 12 per cent will be by the pub­lic sec­tor. The con­tri­bu­tion of tourism sec­tor to the GDP would range be­tween 6 to 10 per cent.

The coun­try is in­vest­ing heav­ily in its tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity in­fra­struc­ture as it aims to host seven mil­lion tourists by 2040, in­clud­ing 2.7 mil­lion in Mus­cat. In­vest­ment in tourism in­dus­try will in­crease the num­ber of jobs within tourism to 45,000 by 2020, as the coun­try looks to ex­pand its econ­omy, mov­ing it from away from tra­di­tional oil-and-gas sources of in­come. Ac­cord­ing to a pro­jec­tion by Col­liers In­ter­na­tional, tourism ar­rivals to Oman will in­crease at a com­pound an­nual growth rate (CAGR) of 13 per cent be­tween 2018 and 2021, which will be driven by visi­tors from across the Gulf re­gion, which ac­counted for 48 per cent of guests in 2017. In ad­di­tion, ar­rivals from In­dia (10 per cent), Ger­many (6 per cent), the United King­dom (5 per cent) and the Philip­pines (3 per cent) are also ex­pected to con­trib­ute im­mensely to the growth, sup­ported by easy visa pro­ce­dures and im­proved flight con­nec­tions.

A re­port by the Im­ple­men­ta­tion, Sup­port and Fol­low-up Unit has laid out the longterm strate­gies for key areas listed un­der Tan­feedh, the na­tional drive for eco­nomic ex­pan­sion, and plans to in­crease the con­tri­bu­tion of tourism to the coun­try’s GDP to RO1.5 bil­lion by 2020. The con­tri­bu­tion of travel and tourism to GDP in 2017 was RO849.5 mil­lion, or 3.2 per cent of to­tal GDP, ac­cord­ing to the World Travel and Tourism Coun­cil’s an­nual re­port 2018. In ad­di­tion, this strat­egy also plans to in­crease pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ment in tourism to RO1.8 bil­lion by 2020.

In­vest­ment in in­te­grated tourism com­plexes and mixed-used devel­op­ments will run into sev­eral bil­lion dol­lars. These in­vest­ments are the fruits of part­ner­ships with lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional in­vestors, as well as lead­ing hos­pi­tal­ity brands that work hand in hand with the gov­ern­ment.

The open­ing of the Sul­tanate’s tourism sec­tor would be re­alised through re­lax­ing en­try rules for visas into the coun­try, a large part of which has al­ready been done. Un­spon­sored visas are now avail­able for na­tion­al­i­ties of over 67 coun­tries, and lately in­clude Iran, Rus­sia and China. In­dian na­tion­als with a valid US or Schen­gen Visa, can also ap­ply online.

A FIL­LIP TO THE AVI­A­TION

The re­cent open­ing of Oman’s most mod­ern Mus­cat In­ter­na­tional Air­port is ex­pected to fur­ther strengthen the growth of avi­a­tion sec­tor in the coun­try. The state-of-the-art air­port has a ca­pac­ity to han­dle 40 flights per hour with 86 check-in coun­ters, 40 gates, and 29 air­craft stands with pas­sen­ger board­ing bridges, as well as a new con­trol tower. Out of ten carousels for bag han­dling, eight will be used for in­ter­na­tional flights. The de­ci­sion to build a new air­port was taken af­ter stud­ies found that there could be a 40 per cent growth in num­ber of visi­tors to Oman by 2019.

The new ter­mi­nal has a ca­pac­ity to han­dle 12 mil­lion pas­sen­gers per an­num, which can be scaled up to 24 mil­lion, 36 mil­lion and 48 mil­lion in dif­fer­ent phases if needed. The new ter­mi­nal will have the ca­pac­ity to han­dle large air­craft such as the Air­bus A380 and the Boe­ing 747. The ex­ist­ing ter­mi­nal will be used for low-cost car­rier op­er­a­tions. The num­ber of pas­sen­gers at Mus­cat In­ter­na­tional Air­port ex­ceeded 14 mil­lion in 2017, a ro­bust growth of 17 per cent over the pre­vi­ous year.

Sim­i­larly, Salalah In­ter­na­tional Air­port also broke its record with a 24 per cent growth at 1.5 mil­lion pas­sen­gers as a re­sult of an in­crease in both do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional travel. Presently, the Mus­cat In­ter­na­tional Air­port is ranked in the top 10 air­ports in the Mid­dle East, with an av­er­age an­nual growth fore­cast of 8 per cent.

Apart from in­ter­na­tional air­ports in two ma­jor cities, there is a move to at­tract tourists to the in­te­rior re­gions by build­ing air­ports and other in­fra­struc­ture in Duqm and Sohar. With Duqm’s new air­port now open, projects at the heart of Oman’s fu­ture eco­nomic pow­er­house are all set to speed up, fur­ther driv­ing the Sul­tanate’s eco­nomic ex­pan­sion.

A MOD­ERN DOWN­TOWN

Oman Tourism De­vel­op­ment Com­pany (Om­ran), the ex­ec­u­tive arm of the gov­ern­ment of Oman for the de­vel­op­ment of the tourism sec­tor, has been en­trusted with strength­en­ing and di­ver­si­fy­ing the na­tional econ­omy to sup­port Oman’s Vi­sion 2040 through pi­o­neer­ing tourism in­fra­struc­ture and life­style de­vel­op­ment across the Sul­tanate. Mad­i­nat Al Irfan is the Sul­tanate’s largest ur­ban de­vel­op­ment project and is set to con­trib­ute to Oman Vi­sion 2040. In the years to come, Mad­i­nat Al Irfan will have ma­jor pos­i­tive na­tional im­pli­ca­tions, con­tribut­ing ap­prox­i­mately Ro400mn to the lo­cal econ­omy. The eastern area (phase 1) cur­rently be­ing de­vel­oped by Om­ran sits along­side Wadi Park just minutes from the newly opened Mus­cat In­ter­na­tional Air­port. It is a multi-use dis­trict ad­join­ing the Oman Con­ven­tion & Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre (OCEC), a world- class venue for in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences, trade shows and con­certs. OCEC, which cel­e­brated its sec­ond an­niver­sary re­cently, helps the gov­ern­ment to strengthen the coun­try’s po­si­tion as a lead­ing MICE (meet­ings, in­cen­tives, con­fer­ences and ex­hi­bi­tions) des­ti­na­tion in the re­gion.

Om­ran and Ma­jid Al Fut­taim an­nounced a strate­gic part­ner­ship to de­velop the western area (phase 2) of Mad­i­nat Al Irfan. The joint ven­ture will see the de­vel­op­ment of a vi­brant mixed-use com­mu­nity that will serve as the new ur­ban cen­tre for Mus­cat. This new part­ner­ship plays a ma­jor role in Oman na­tional eco­nomic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion agenda and re­flects Om­ran’s strate­gic role as a cat­a­lyst of in­vest­ment that forges solid part­ner­ships with trusted de­vel­op­ers like Ma­jid Al Fut­taim to cre­ate sustainable ur­ban des­ti­na­tions and sig­nif­i­cant so­cioe­co­nomic ben­e­fits to the Sul­tanate. In­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences and ex­hi­bi­tions also bring the op­por­tu­nity to show­case Oman to the world and lead to knowl­edge trans­fer and ex­change, fu­ture in­vest­ment po­ten­tial, cre­ation of busi­ness to busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, job cre­ation and SME de­vel­op­ment.

The new mixed-use com­mu­nity is lo­cated at the western area of Mad­i­nat Al Irfan and spans over 4.5 mil­lion sqm. The joint ven­ture project in­vest­ment value is es­ti­mated at Ro5bn over a pe­riod of 20 years and is an­tic­i­pated to cre­ate more than 30,000 direct and in­di­rect jobs in the coun­try. Cen­trally lo­cated in Mus­cat’s ur­ban cor­ri­dor, the de­vel­op­ment will be­come the gate­way to Oman; cre­at­ing a mod­ern down­town for res­i­dents, busi­nesses and visi­tors.

MINA QABOOS WA­TER­FRONT

Com­ple­ment­ing its ho­tel pipe­line, the Sul­tanate has made sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ments in other tourism in­fra­struc­ture fa­cil­i­ties. In yet an­other ma­jor ini­tia­tive, Mina Qaboos Wa­ter­front project planned in Mus­cat port will usher in a new con­cept in port devel­op­ments in the Sul­tanate. The new port con­cept is a kind of wa­ter­front port cater­ing to cruise ships, as well as in­vest­ments in ho­tels, restau­rants, cafes and so on. Om­ran and Dubai- based DA­MAC In­ter­na­tional, inked a land­mark agree­ment to re­de­velop Mus­cat Port into a world­class mix use wa­ter­front des­ti­na­tion. The cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture of the project is es­ti­mated at $ 1 bil­lion. The old com­mer­cial har­bour is pro­posed to be trans­formed into an in­te­grated tourist port and life­style des­ti­na­tion that in­cludes ho­tels, res­i­dences, as well as a din­ing, re­tail, leisure and com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties de­signed to po­si­tion Mus­cat as a top wa­ter­front des­ti­na­tion in the gover­norate. The pro­posed Mina Sul­tan Qaboos Wa­ter­front project will in­clude berths for cruise ships, a ma­rina for su­per yachts and leisure ports, 4 and 5- star ma­rina ho­tels, ho­tel- op­er­ated branded res­i­den­tial apart­ments, wa­ter­side restau­rants, cafes and bou­tiques, con­fer­ence and ban­quet fa­cil­i­ties, entertainment and cul­tural fa­cil­i­ties, fish­er­man’s wharf, and his­toric souq.

IN­VEST­MENT IN IN­TE­RI­ORS

Plans to de­velop the in­te­rior areas of the Sul­tanate as part of the coun­try’s long- term tourism strat­egy are now un­der­way. De­vel­op­ing these areas was part of the gov­ern­ment’s tourism plan un­der the Fu­ture Vi­sion 2040, which in­volves eco­nomic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion and less re­liance on fos­sil fu­els to guard the nation’s econ­omy. Un­der this plan, the gov­er­norates of Mus­cat, Mu­san­dam, Dakhiliyah and South Shar­qiyah will first be tar­geted.

The gov­ern­ment is fo­cus­ing on

de­vel­op­ing em­ploy­ment for the fu­ture gen­er­a­tion, as well as de­vel­op­ing other parts of Oman. A key com­po­nent of the strat­egy is clus­ter plan­ning. The strat­egy will use five plan­ning con­cepts, namely tourism sites, plan­ning at­trac­tions, plan­ning re­sorts, na­tional in­ter­est plan­ning and itin­er­ary plan­ning. One of the most im­por­tant ob­jec­tives that the Oman tourism strat­egy seeks to achieve is in­creas­ing the con­tri­bu­tion of tourism sec­tor into the GDP, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with sustainable de­vel­op­ment prac­tices cur­rently tak­ing place in other eco­nomic sec­tors.

The Min­istry of Tourism has re­alised the key role tourism plays in en­hanc­ing the stan­dard of liv­ing of our pop­u­la­tion. An­other ob­jec­tive of the tourism sec­tor is to cap­i­talise on the ca­pa­bil­ity of the tourism sec­tor in job cre­ation, and pro­vide em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, in ad­di­tion to sus­tain­ably sup­port the de­vel­op­ment of small busi­nesses.

As part of this plan, Mu­san­dam has been ear­marked as a coastal wilder­ness des­ti­na­tion and Dakhiliyah as a her­itage, na­ture and ad­ven­ture des­ti­na­tion, due to the pres­ence of the gover­norate’s key UNESCO listed forts, cas­tles, falaj sys­tems and tra­di­tional vil­lages. Mus­cat will be Oman’s high­end cul­tural her­itage des­ti­na­tion. The aim is to build Mus­cat as the coun­try’s na­tional gate­way for arts, her­itage, cul­ture and older le­gendary ar­chi­tec­ture.

Shar­qiyah South has been looked at as a des­ti­na­tion for fortresses, moun­tain vil­lages and canyons. The area is also fa­mous for its wadis, oa­sis life, golden sands, dhow build­ing and tur­tle nest­ing in the Gulf.

In par­tic­u­lar, de­vel­op­ment has been tar­geted to­wards Jabal Akhdar and Jabal Shams in the Dakhiliyah Gover­norate, and Sur and Masirah in South Shar­qiyah. Key stake­hold­ers in this project in­volve, in ad­di­tion to the Min­istry of Tourism, the Min­istry of Hous­ing, Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Af­fairs, Min­istry of Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and Wa­ter Re­sources and the Min­istry of Trans­port and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, as well as Mus­cat Mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

In short, ma­jor up­grades and projects are def­i­nitely the way to go and Oman is work­ing on the tools needed to ful­fil the fu­ture goals to boost tourism growth.

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