OUTLOOK — By Haider Al Lawati — The Minister of Tourism, Ahmed bin Nasser al Mehrzi, has recently visited many provinces in Oman to take stock the latest developments in the tourism sector. During his visits he met with several people, including members of the Shura Council, representatives of government agencies, as well as the private sector officials, who are building new infrastructure for the future. The aim of these projects is to attract more tourists to the provinces. The meetings and discussions included several topics of interest to the tourism sector and ways of developing them, in addition to discussing the difficulties faced by these projects which are proposed for implementation during the next phase.
One of the issues highlighted by the minister was on the need for the people in the provinces to voice their initiatives regarding establishing investment companies to combine business in their areas for the benefit of the coming generations, as well as for all citizens and to maintain an active role in contributing to the development of the economies of these provinces.
From its side, the government is taking up several initiatives to boost both, the tourism sector as well as to attract more tourists to the country in order to strengthen the tourism sector. The authorities believe by boosting tourism and creating additional tourism facilities, they can attract as many as 12 million tourists to the country, with an average of five night’s stay by the year 2020. The plan also aims to encourage domestic tourism, which has began to flourish over the past few years.
The ministry is promoting tourism by developing tourism facilities and creating other attractive service facilities to attract local tourists to frequently undertake periodic tours within the country.
According to the officials in the ministry, infrastructure projects such as construction of roads, shopping malls, hotels, resorts and other tourism projects are essential for boosting tourism in the country. They have called upon all the Omani investors, businessmen and entrepreneurs to jack up their investments in the tourism sector. It is imperative for the ministry to realise the national vision on tourism as emphasised in the Sultanate’s 2020 tourism strategy. The vision is to target 12 million tourists to the Sultanate by 2020. However, the 2010 tourism figures show that only 1,6 million tourists visited the Sultanate. Their average hotel stay was about two nights. This shows that the Sultanate has a long way to go to boost the tourists’ numbers in due course of time. It needs a lot of efforts to achieve the targeted figure and an average of five night’s hotel stay by the year 2020.
The tourism sectors needs several facilities as well as investments through the transfer of technology to unable the country to benefit from the experience and expertise gained out of the foreign investments. This will also result in the multiplication of several business opportunities for Omani travel and tourism companies operating both at the domestic and international levels.
On the government side, the ministry is working in collaboration with Omran Tourism Development Company, which is a fully owned government body, for establishing key tourism projects in a number of regions around the country. The company contributes in developing tourism by raising investments in this sector as well as in other projects in the real estate projects, such as the construction of hotels, resorts and creating other tourism and real estate related amenities.
The total cost of projects the company is currently working on exceeds $10 billion. It distributes the investments and work on different regions and under different environments besides imparting specialised training and providing business opportunities to citizens, where the company has successfully achieved an Omanisation rate of 65 per cent. This includes even those who are in senior management positions. One of their projects is a conventions and exhibitions centre, which will become a key factor in attracting delegates and visitors once it opens in late 2013. The Sultanate opened its Royal Opera House Muscat in October last year which has indeed added to the tourist attractions.
This type of infrastructure was urgently required since the mid of eighties, but it was postponed many times for different reasons.
Oman must concentrate on such projects and give more attention to the exhibition sector because of the importance of the conferences and exhibitions business in boosting and encouraging sustainable tourism in the country. This will help in retaining focus on Oman and its cultural heritage. This will significantly boost Oman’s status as a regional and global leisure hub.