• March 17, 2018
    Last updated 2 minutes ago


Oman focuses on sustainable tourism

Sultanate making huge efforts to enhance its sustainable tourism with new projects and infrastructure

By Nickyta Ray, Special to Gulf News
15:42 March 2, 2018
BUS_180302 $1.3bn Mina Sultan
BUS_180302 Qurayat Tourism Complex project .JPG
BUS_180302 Ahmed Bin Nasser Al Mahrizi, Minister of Tourism

MUSCAT: With key tourism projects and infrastructure development, Oman’s Ministry of Tourism (MoT) is making significant efforts to enhance the country’s offerings in the sector while emphasising on sustainable development.

As a signatory to the United Nations Agenda 2030 for sustainable tourism development, Oman has adopted several measures to enhance tourism facilities in a sustainable manner, said the country’s Minister of Tourism, Ahmad Bin Nasser Al Mahrizi.

In an interview with Gulf News, Al Mahrizi said: “In addition to a rich historic and cultural heritage, the Sultanate is endowed with several diversified natural resources that are spread across its governorates. In view of this, the MoT has formulated the Oman Tourism Strategy 2040 to accelerate the pace of tourism and cultural development through the appropriate utilisation of these resources while keeping in mind the principles of sustainable development. Our main long-term objective is to achieve economic diversification, together with upgrading the direct and indirect contribution of the sector in Oman’s GDP, provision of direct and indirect employment opportunities for the national labour force, enhancing government revenues, supporting the balance of payments and achieving the highest level of regional development.

“The adoption of the principle of tourism sustainability is the result of ongoing concern and awareness towards responsibilities, not only in the progress and development of the current generation, but also future generations.”

Tourism infrastructure is being rapidly advanced in Oman, encompassing the new extended Muscat International Airport, which will be operational soon.

Speaking about the new airport, Al Mahrizi said: “The airport, which will nearly double passenger capacity to 12 million per annum, is expected to boost the country’s tourism and hospitality sector, while also opening new development opportunities for land parcels around it.”

Combined passenger numbers of the Muscat International and Salalah airports are inching towards the nine million mark, according to latest government data.

The MoT has signed agreements with international companies to boost sustainable and leisure tourism projects in the Sultanate. A senior official from MoT informed Gulf News that the Sultanate’s first snow park, part of the Palm Mall Muscat project, would be a new-generation Alpine winter-themed real snow and ice amusement park.

Spread over 5,400 sqm, the snow park and the mall are expected to be ready this year. An 8,000 square metre aquarium within the facility will have 55 exhibit tanks. Thirty thousand marine animals — from small shrimps to large sharks — will find a home in the new Oman Aquarium in Palm Mall, Seeb, which is set to open later this year.

Additionally, the Oman Tourism Development Company has launched the $1.3 billion (Dh4.77 billion) Mina Sultan Qaboos Waterfront project aimed at transforming Port Sultan Qaboos into a major tourism base.

Speaking about the project, Mahmoud Al Jarwani, Group Chairman, Al Jarwani, the company vested with operational services of the project, said: “The mall will offer a thrilling shopping experience along with entertainment and leisure opportunities. The aquarium will be the cynosure of all eyes with a world-class education and conservation programme.”

The first of the mall’s four phases comprises a fisherman’s wharf, fish souq, a five-star marina hotel, a four-star family hotel, residential facilities, destination shopping, restaurants, cafés, boutiques, entertainment and cultural facilities, along with a super yacht and leisure boat marina. This will be completed by 2020.

Another upcoming project is the Qurayat Tourism Complex, an agreement for which, worth Omani riyal 385 million (Dh3.67 billion), has been signed between the MoT and Qurayat Development Company. The first phase of the complex, which covers a total area of 1,282,300 sqm, will be launched by 2021.

The facilities at the complex will include 3-, 4- and 5-Star hotels, with a total of 750 rooms, and a nine-hole golf course. Furthermore, the recreational aspect includes a water park, boulevard walk with restaurants and cafés, cinema halls and a spa.

Meanwhile, the Al Nakheel Integrated Tourism Complex (ITC), worth Omani riyal 265 million, is located on the waterfront of the Wilayat of Barka in the Governorate of South Al Batinah. It will be developed with the MoT’s efforts along with Palm’s Beach Company.

Notable features of the project include an 833-metre waterfront overlooking the sea of Oman, a man-made crystal lagoon and a promenade covering 5.1ha.

Speaking about the project, an MoT official said: “The MoT earlier signed an agreement with Palm’s Beach Company to develop the project, including three 4-5 star international hotels, villas, town houses, apartments, serviced apartments, a lagoon promenade and a traditional mixed-use souk, a shopping mall, an aqua park and a school.”

Al Mahrizi added: “The project is a noteworthy addition to the Wilayat of Barka as a tourism destination; one that already attracts a number of tourists from the capital Muscat. This development is directly linked to the Al Batinah Coastal Road, which is easily accessible to travellers from any of the other governorates.”

In addition to these, Naseem A’Sabah, a 400,000 square metre project worth Omani riyal 400 million will be an integrated tourism complex (ITC), consisting of more than 1,200 residential units, five-star hotels, retail and leisure zones, along with a yacht club. The project aims to provide a venue that integrates culture, tradition and architecture with job opportunities for citizens.

Oman’s tourism is forecast to contribute to the country’s GDP by 6 per cent over the next two decades, according to UN figures.

“With over 1.2 billion people now crossing international borders each year, tourism represents a golden opportunity to break down barriers of ignorance and prejudice. It plays an important role as a vehicle for inter-cultural dialogue and, ultimately, peace,” said Francesco Bandarin, Unesco Assistant Director-General on Culture on his recent visit to the Sultanate.

“Unesco and UNWTO are also united in our commitment to tackling the challenges of poverty and development through sustainable tourism,” Bandarin concluded

— Nickyta Ray is a freelance journalist based in Oman