Maitha Al Mahrouqi, undersecretary for the Oman Ministry of Tourism, shares the country’s tourism strategy
Oman’s goal by 2040 is to attract 11.7 million annual visitors. How do you aim to achieve this?
We received more than 700,000 visitors from the UK and three million globally in 2017, and Oman’s tourism sector is expected to continue its strong growth.
The Oman Ministry of Tourism’s 2040 Tourism Strategy is based on two pillars: the cluster concept and distinctive experiences. Creating tourism clusters allows visitors to have unique experiences in specifically identified areas of Oman, reflecting local culture and heritage, history and adventure. The cluster model provides visitors with a variety of tourism experiences, both within each cluster or via an itinerary that covers multiple clusters. A good option is to have visitors spend time in Muscat before escaping to the cool of the mountains, having a Bedouin experience in the desert or travelling down to Salalah in the south of the sultanate, which has a different climate entirely.
These figures will be achieved by promoting Oman as a year-round destination – with water sports, mountain escapades and luxury hotels included in a new summer campaign designed for visitors from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
The newly developed Oman Tourism Strategy, which covers the next 25 years, has identified digital marketing and promotion as the most effective platform to be used to promote Oman as a preferred and top-of-mind tourism destination. As such, efforts are being channelled in that particular vehicle of communication.
What new luxury hotels are in the pipeline?
In response to the growing number of tourists travelling to Oman, the destination is by no means short of luxurious hotel properties. New additions to the portfolio include the Kempinski Hotel Muscat and W Hotel, with both properties catering to the demand for authentic, luxurious Omani hospitality.
The new Kempinski Hotel Muscat will be situated in a prime location, which stretches across almost four miles of stunning coastline. Hotel guests will be treated to exclusive access to the white sandy beach found on the doorstep. Neighbouring the hotel is Oman’s only signature PGA-standard 18-hole golf course as well as the Al Mouj Marina, Oman’s largest private yachting club.
What will the Mall of Muscat add to Muscat’s tourism offer?
Entertainment will help facilitate the objective of turning Oman into a year-round tourism destination. The rebrand of the Mall of Muscat, in the third quarter of 2018, will showcase the world-class standards of Omani development. The mall, which will house the much-anticipated Oman Aquarium and an enormous Snow Park, will be a unique landmark for the sultanate.
Which other regions are seeing investment in tourism infrastructure?
Salalah, the country’s second major flight destination, has witnessed an increase in passenger numbers and a significant investment in tourism infrastructure with the recent opening of Salalah airport and the Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara opening last year. A major season for visitors to Salalah and the south is the khareef, which extends from the end of July to the beginning of September, when the Indian Ocean monsoon visits the shores of Dhofar, temporarily turning the coastal plain of the governorate green and providing a welcome respite from soaring temperatures elsewhere in the Gulf.
Why is the adventure market an important one?
The adventure market is definitely a sector the Oman tourist board is looking to focus on in 2018. Oman’s spectacular land and seascapes lend themselves to adventure, whether it be in the mountains, desert, wadis, canyoning, caving, climbing, sailing, diving, dolphin watching, kiteboarding or mountain biking – the list is endless.
Under the Tanfeedh (national economic diversification project) initiative, a dedicated team of experts has been working on the legislation, structure and promotion of adventure tourism, a very promising product for Oman, as identified within the new Oman Tourism Strategy.
This article is from the latest edition of WTM Insights, the new quarterly magazine on global travel trends, analysis and updates from TTG Media and WTM.