Culturally-rich Oman

The Sultanate of Oman is taking a 360-degree look at its tourism product as government investment and private sector interest raises the profile of the country’s diverse geography with a raft of pipeline projects underway from Khasab to Salalah.

Salalah, Oman is looking to boost its tourism offering with over 1,100 rooms planned for the city

The Omani government has allocated $39 million to develop tourism sites in Dhofar province this year, as the annual Khareef (monsoon) season attracts increasing numbers of local, regional and international visitors. This shift of focus outside of the capital, Muscat, is a clear sign that the Sultanate is powering ahead with a well thought-out and diversified plan for tourism growth.

Speaking to Oxford Business Group, Ahmed bin Nasser Al Mahrizi, Minister of Tourism said, “The government has been introducing new tourism products that unlock the sultanate’s tourism potential. The rehabilitation of numerous historical caves in various governorates is one of the moves being considered for tourism. Efforts are also being taken to attract high-value visitor segments, with tourism in meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (Mice) being a major priority.”

“The Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre currently under construction and due for completion in 2015-16, will provide a premium facility at a time when the Mice segment is looking for fresh destinations. The 3,000-seat centre with breakout facilities and four hotels totalling 1,000 rooms is being constructed to international standards of leadership in energy and environmental design, and is a significant demonstration of sustainable development. The first phase will generate around 2000 jobs and tangible benefits for locally-operated construction companies. The centre will also enhance the sultanate’s global business appeal and create new service-based jobs for Omanis in the immediate future.”

Muscat International Airport’s new multi-million dollar terminal is set to open next year, with the capacity to handle 12 million passengers per annum, with the potential for a projected 48 million passengers upon completion of its long term phased expansion programme.  To the south of the country, new tourism hotspot Salalah is also preparing for one million passengers each year once it debuts its upgraded airport in 2014.

Both Qatar Airways and Oman Air are launching new services from Salalah in 2013, with the airport recording a 23 per cent rise in passenger traffic to 629,000 travellers in 2012 against 2011.

Hotel room capacity in the country is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 5.3 per cent over the period 2011 to 2016 and the Sultanate currently has approximately 5,331 rooms – or seven per cent of GCC expected supply – under development, with some 2,000 hotel rooms ready for business by the end of 2013, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

In Salalah, a Club Med, Mövenpick and Rotana will add a further much-needed 1,158 rooms to the market, with another two five-star hotels and supporting mixed-use facilities in the pipeline as part of the Muriya Tourism Development initiative.

According to Alpen Capital’s 2012 GCC Hospitality Industry Report, released last October, tourist arrivals into Oman are expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.7 per cent, between 2012 and 2022 and the Ministry of Tourism aims to increase the GDP contribution of tourism from two per cent in 2011 to around 3.5 per cent in 2015.

Occupancy rates are expected to increase from 53 per cent in 2011 to 58.6 per cent by 2016. Average daily rates are also set to benefit as occupancy rates strengthen, increasing from $245 in 2011 to $258.9 by 2016. Overall the hospitality market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 8.6 per cent between 2011 and 2016.

The Ministry has also has initiated four new projects to boost tourism in the country, it was reported in The Muscat Daily. They include an eco-lodge in Al Uliya village in Wadi bani Kharoos in the wilayat of Awabi and installing infrared cameras in Suhur cave in Salalah. Apart from these, two other development projects will be in Misfat al Abryeen in the wilayat of Al Hamra.