Like the ceaseless ebb and flow of the Gulf of Oman, the Sultanate’s tourism industry is determined to keep rolling out awe-inspiring developments, keeping its product as fresh as the ocean. Tatiana Tsierkezou writes.
Globally renowned for its tourism mastery and its ability to embrace travellers of all kinds, the Sultanate of Oman ever-impresses with its determination and perseverance, and continues to mesmerise each and every visitor.
Business or leisure, the country can cater to any need and meet all demands, whether travellers are on a budget or are yearning for ultimate, incomparable luxury in the GCC.
Commenting on this was director of sales and marketing, Al Nahda Hotels & Resorts, corporate office – Muscat, Amit Garg: “Oman is a destination of choice for business and leisure travellers for its business opportunities, unexplored natural wonders, mindfully preserved heritage, rich culture, adventure sports opportunities, welcoming locals and much more. People visit the country to rediscover their lost selves. Oman tends to grow on one and all alike, whether you come here as a solo traveller or with a group.”
Meanwhile, with regional unrest, the word on everyone’s lips when travelling is ‘safety’, which is something Oman can expertly provide, according to general manager, Salalah Rotana Resort, Hossam Kamal: “Safety and security plays a crucial role in tourists selecting a destination to visit. Oman has been a very safe and stable country to visit. Hence the continued growth of tourist arrivals.”
And with all of these positive attributes in tow, the Sultanate is ever working to boost the frequency of its visitors. Head of corporate communications and media, Oman Air, Usama Al Haremi explained that by the year 2040, the country aims to attract over 11.7 million tourists.
“Tourism is developing rapidly in Oman and it is one of the most significant income generators in the Sultanate, at between six and 10 per cent of annual GDP.”
Although it is currently fully equipped with all of the necessary means to guarantee a high-quality experience, Oman is striving to refine and adjust its tourism portfolio. It seems that there is no stopping this GCC state, with infrastructural projects making their presence known across the country.
One such development, which is expected to be up and running by the end of 2017, is the new terminal at Muscat International Airport.
Speaking to TTG about this, Al Haremi of Oman Air said: “The new terminal has the ability to handle 12 million passengers a year. The airport has been planned in three subsequent phases to accommodate further expansion, which will ultimately boost the airport’s capacity to 24, 36 and 48 million passengers when the demand is required.”
Yet another transport-related development in Oman is the recent launch of SalamAir, the country’s inaugural budget airline, which has been warmly received and has bolstered the frequency of flights between Oman and Dubai; Jeddah, Ta’if and Medina in Saudi Arabia; and Sialkot and Karachi in Pakistan.
The airline’s chairman, Eng. Khalid bin Hilal Al Yahmadi, recently commented: “We have enabled people across the region to expand their personal and business horizons, travel more frequently and connect more with colleagues, friends and family.”
He continued: “A home-grown airline, SalamAir is proud to be a catalyst for Oman’s vision for sustainable development and diversification. Opening up new routes and destinations, the capacity we provide is increasing tourism and leisure flows to support the Sultanate in the achievement of its tourism development goals and objectives. The facilitation of business travel is also an important element of our activities, as we make the many attractive prospects of the Sultanate’s industrial base more accessible to investors and entrepreneurs from around the region.”
But moving away from transport and moving on to more bureaucratic developments, the Government of Oman has made moves to ensure seamless travel experiences.
Kamal of Salalah Rotana remarked: “Embracing seamless travel is a key determinant of tourism inflow into a country. Recognising this, the government of Oman has introduced the e-visa portal where potential visitors can conveniently apply for their visas to Oman.”
HOSPITALITY AND LEISURE NEWS
But it’s not only transport and facilitating seamless travel that’s shaping the Sultanate’s tourism sector. Of course, hospitality entities are forever looking for new and exciting ventures to shake up the industry.
Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran) has numerous pipeline projects, including three new hotels that are expected to contribute 900 additional rooms in 2017/18.
Adding to this, the Omani capital city will be welcoming the brand-new Crowne Plaza Muscat Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre this October, which will form part of the new Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre, a facility that catapulted the country’s MICE industry to impressive heights.
“The hotel will certainly be the preferred venue for congress organisers, exhibitors and attendees alike,” declared the soon-to-open property’s general manager Christian Kronast.
Meanwhile, other notable hotels that are scheduled to open their doors for business this year include the upscale Kempinski Al Mouj, Muscat; the dusitD2 Palm Mall Muscat; and two five-star, beachfront hotels at Muscat Bay.
Sharing his knowledge with TTG, Kronast outlined two extremely noteworthy, and possibly game-changing, developments. “Madinat Al Irfan, by Omran, is the Sultanate’s largest urban development project that will create a new downtown area for Muscat; the Port Sultan Qaboos Waterfront project (phase 1), also by Omran, has commenced and once completed, this integrated mixed-use waterfront destination will transform the current commercial Port Sultan Qaboos area into a major tourism-based development, spanning 64-hectares.”
Kronast additionally mentioned the Mall of Oman, which will be the country’s newest shopping and entertainment destination. It will generate approximately 1,500 jobs for its construction and a further 3,500 jobs upon opening.
Finally, moving on to the green and luscious city of Salalah in the Dhofar province; leisure travellers will soon have yet another attraction to visit, according to Salalah Rotana’s Kamal.
“In Salalah, we have further development at Hawana Salalah with a new waterpark currently being constructed. It will enhance the guest experience in Salalah as it is the first of its kind in the city,” he told TTG.
With 2017 having flown by and the tourism industry now approaching its fourth and final quarter, positive sentiments can be heard echoing across Oman.
With an assured outlook, Al Haremi of Oman Air was the first to comment: “Oman Air will continue on its growth trajectory in 2017 and the opening of the new international terminal in Muscat will be a very exciting development this year. This is one of the biggest infrastructure projects happening in Oman and will have a very positive effect on the Oman economy.”
Also confident about what’s to come, general manager, Park Inn by Radisson Muscat and Park Inn by Radisson Hotel & Residence Duqm, Nuno Neves said: “We have faced a dramatic increase of room inventory in the cities, with numerous hotels opening. To combat this, we offer competitive rates, promotions and packages.
“The rest of 2017 will be better than the beginning of 2017. We will try to host a number of events on the rooftop at Park Inn Muscat and will work to involve the community at Park Inn Duqm. We try to organise special themed events for our guests to enjoy,” he added.
Meanwhile, Garg of Al Nahda Hotels & Resorts told TTG: “The balance of 2017 will definitely be better than 2016 in our opinion, owing to our increased reach through our international sales offices in Germany, France, the UK, the UAE, India and our ever-increasing focus towards guest satisfaction. Al Nahda Hotels & Resorts is working on an aggressive development plan.”
Finally, commenting on Salalah Rotana’s extremely ‘bright future’ was Kamal: “We anticipate a jump in guest arrivals to the resort considering our existing partnership agreements with tour operators from Europe. This year, we will be adding 22 keys to our already existing 400, in an effort to accommodate the increase in guest arrivals to the resort. We look forward to the launch of our Club Rotana concept and maintain the highest service quality. We had a tremendous year in 2016 and are working towards maintaining the same stream of progress.”
Oman will continue to ride the wave to success and, living up to its reputation as a coveted tourist destination, will pull out all the stops to ensure that its guests are embraced with the highest standards of hospitality and warmth.