The Sultanate’s government is working on a new strategy on tourism with support from an external agency specialized in tourism, said Ahmed bin Nasser al Mehrzi, Minister of Tourism. The minister said the new strategy will focus on increasing the contribution of tourism sector to the GDP of the country. The sector’s contribution to the GDP stood at 6.6 per cent in 2012. Meanwhile, the annual Arabian Travel Market roadshow arrives in Muscat today at the City Seasons Hotel, bringing together key industry players to discuss marketing opportunities to showcase Oman’s tourism ambitions.
Oman is raising awareness of its tourism-related developments at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM), where exhibitors will include the Oman Ministry of Tourism, Oman Airways and for the first time, Muriya Tourism Development. Developing new hotels and resorts and bringing them to market is one of Oman’s top priorities. A number of large-scale transport infrastructure developments will be coming to fruition over the next few years at a cost in excess of $50 billion. This was demonstrated by figures from global research and analytics company Aranca, which revealed that as of July 2013, Oman had the largest growth in its active hotel development pipeline of all the MENA countries, up 59.9 per cent on July 2012, with 4,577 rooms.
“Oman is a country with a fine-tuned vision for its tourism industry and is forging ahead with plans to build a premium destination targeted at discerning travellers,” said Mark Walsh, Portfolio Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions. “With this in mind, the Sultanate is investing in a wide-range of top-quality hotels and resorts, supported by world-class infrastructure developments spanning aviation, road, rail and maritime.” The hospitality sector has already rolled out a number of properties in the recent past, across Oman including the Best Western Premier Hotel in Muscat, the Holiday Inn Muscat, Salalah Rotana Resort in Dhofar Governorate, the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Duqm and niche resorts in Omran, at Khasab (Musandam) and Jebel Al Akhdhar.
Maitha al Mahrouqiyah, Under-Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, says she expects hotels and restaurants to contribute 5 per cent of Oman’s GDP by 2020, with the tourism sector’s total contribution reaching a “much higher figure”. A World Economic Forum (WEF) report claims Oman’s travel and tourism industry was worth an estimated $2.11 billion in 2012 and anticipates average growth of 5.2 per cent between 2013 and 2022. The sector’s contribution to Oman’s GDP stood at 6.6 per cent in 2012, it claims. “Predicted growth of the tourism sector could be modest given the raft of projects pipelined and the rapid development of Oman’s aviation sector, with national carrier Oman Air expanding its route network plus regional operators such as Air Arabia, flydubai and Qatar Airways adding more flights to Muscat and Salalah,” added Walsh.
Targeting international visitors is high on the agenda for Oman Air, which plans to go double-daily on its Muscat-London route and branch out into other medium- and long-haul markets when new A330 and B787 aircraft are delivered, taking its total fleet size to 50 by 2017. To cater for a surge in travellers visiting the Sultanate, a new $1.8 billion passenger terminal is under construction at Muscat International Airport, boosting its capacity from six to 12 million passengers annually. Five airports in total are under construction, with regional locations including Duqm, Ras al Hadd, and Sohar. “A nationally-significant initiative is the transformation of Port Sultan Qaboos into a tourism and cruise ship precinct, a project designed to re-establish Muscat as the maritime gateway to the Gulf of Arabia,” said Walsh.
Oman is one of the six Middle East destinations being visited by the ATM team during its week-long roadshow which takes in Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Riyadh and Dubai. Expanding into an additional exhibition hall, Arabian Travel Market 2014 will take place from May 5-8 at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre. Last year, ATM welcomed over 21,000 visitors from 165 countries, covering 22,000 square metres of floor space.