Known for its tactical approach to its tourism sector, Oman of late has seen keen interest from a range of major hotel companies, looking to boost the destination’s hotel room count and its status. Natalie Hami reports.
From its lush landscape, all the way to the imposing and grand Al Hajar mountains, Oman has always been able to skilfully maintain a low-key approach to its tourism sector. Tourism stakeholders carefully select how to develop and evolve its tourism product, all the while highlighting the destination’s warmth and authenticity.
In a bid to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbon receipts, Oman’s tourism bodies have turned their eyes on broadening the destination’s visitor base, by focusing further on the GCC and European markets.
The Oman Ministry of Tourism recently presented a series of events in key destinations, aimed at highlighting the Sultanate’s wide range of tourism attractions and rich cultural offerings, thus increasing the influx of tourists from destinations such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE.
Recent months have also seen the completion of certain hotel projects such as the opening of Dunes by Al Nahda along with the prospect of further openings by major companies, Rotana and Dusit.
Omani investment companies Golden Group of Companies (GGC) and Taameer Investment SOAC (Taameer) recently partnered with Rotana for a brand new hotel chain to debut in Muscat, Sohar and Salalah in Oman, while Dusit International has announced a brand new project; the upscale dusitD2 Palm Mall Muscat, scheduled to open its doors in 2017.
Director, Hud Hud Travels, Eric Walters also noted that the number of properties is on the increase. “There are various hotel projects underway and I struggle to keep up to be honest. There are a few hotels going up in and around Salalah including a new Alila which broke ground a few months ago. Then there are the Muscat hotels such as Kempinski which is being built but behind schedule.”
Oman has always been a destination that has focused more on a discreet charm, however, Walters pointed out that five-star hotels can be found anywhere and may not be the best way forward for the destination. “They are not going to help distinguish Oman as a destination but instead make it more like other places.”
Its tourism stakeholders, however beg to differ.
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Thus, as Oman’s tourism bodies begin to spread the news of the hidden gem that is Oman, its hospitality sector takes up the baton to ensure that it’s also evolving with the destination’s Ministry of Tourism.
General manager, City Seasons Muscat, Christian Palacin elaborated on the destination’s current tourism status to TTG.
“The tourism boost that the country is experiencing currently will usher in a wave of travellers from different destinations, mainly tourists from Europe, as Oman is deemed a scenic country with heritage treasures, an untouched geography where visitors can experience an exotic holiday as much as a cultural and active one in a high level of comfort and excellent service delivery.”
He added that despite the fact that the Ministry of Tourism has announced the addition of 1,500 hotel rooms in 2015, demand will certainly surpass this as the country has seen a resurgence of European tourism besides visitors from neighbouring countries.
“Moreover visitors from Arab countries are on the increase, be it GCC nationals or expats, and Oman is the perfect weekend away or short break for whoever prefers a more sedate holiday than the more popular Dubai.”
As Oman’s tourism stakeholders tap into new markets, general manager, Millennium Resort Mussanah, Maurice de Rooij explained to TTG how the property has benefited with a 10 per cent rise in guests over last year to date, from January to November this year.
“During the same period, the number of visitors from Western Europe increased by over 20 per cent from our main international source markets. Numbers from within the GCC, including Oman, continue to be impressive, experiencing a steady growth in the same period.”
He added: “Oman’s drive to grow the sector has allowed us to seize a number of opportunities to further expand our destination.”
Oman’s decision to further boost its tourism was also praised by general manager, Salalah Rotana Resort, Hossam Kamal who told TTG: “The Sultanate of Oman is abundantly blessed with resources for tourism to be viable therefore, the decision to boost tourism will translate to added revenue for the Sultanate, creation of jobs through the Omanisation concept, further development of infrastructure including air travel, roads and the establishment of a range of lodging facilities.”
Kamal added that he believes tourism generally has a trickle-down effect, meaning the sector has the potential to benefit everyone.
Salalah Rotana Resort will also be targeting the neighbouring GCC countries as well as focusing on driving charter business from Europe following the region’s growing popularity amongst visitors from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Meanwhile, director of communications, Shangri- La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, Rebecca Platt also conveyed positive sentiments at the prospect of growth of the destination’s tourism product. “With the opening of new markets to Oman, this will increase worldwide destination exposure and awareness that can only grow tourism, and this is significant for the growth of the hospitality industry in Oman.”
Director of sales and marketing, Six Senses Zighy Bay, Jad Frem on a similar note added that the announcements from tourism stakeholders bring a new spirit to the destination, stimulating more demand from fresh market segments.
Looking to an even more fruitful future, Oman continues to enthral visitors from across the globe.