By Lakshmi Kothaneth — MUSCAT: March 21 – The two-day Oman Tourism Investment Conference (OTIC) brought into focus latest projects and investment opportunities, while discussing the potential direction for the tourism strategy. Impact of tourism on economy, Tourism Strategy of Oman 2040, Oman Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report were the major highlights of the morning session, while the panel discussion looked into the overview of tourism industry in Oman, key hospitality projects in the Sultanate and perception of international investments in tourism market.
“The conference, which is the first of its kind, serves as a platform for launching investment in tourism, and came after completing Oman Tourism Strategy which identified the Sultanate’s vision for tourism sector,” said Ahmed bin Nasser al Mehrzi, Minister of Tourism.
“The ministry has initiated the tourism layout for the Governorate of Dhofar and will soon float a tender for layouts in Al Dakhiliyah, Musandam and South Al Sharqiyah governorates, in addition to Jabal Shams,” he added.
“Hayy Al Sharq in the Wilayat of Barka, which stretches over 1.5 million square metres, will cover the gap in the domestic tourism and will help in attracting Arab tourists. The ministry has also approved Yeti Tourism Project of Oman Investment Fund and Yankit Project, which stretches over 8 million square metres. The two projects will be merged to be an integrated tourism complex which includes hotels, entertainment, water games and adventure sports,” he said.
Maitha bint Saif al Mahrouqiyah, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, said that the number of inbound tourists to the Sultanate is growing and that a number of hospitality projects will be opened this year and during the next few years.
The conference is organised by ASAAS. According to Lulua al Araimi, the business development analyst at ASAAS, the objective of the conference is to create an annual major event as a platform where all the stake holders can come together. Our aim is to attract international investors.
“We have brought in local and GCC investors. This is also the conference where we will have announcements of projects. At the exhibition here we also have a business centre for investors to have their meetings here.”
ASAAS has been in operation for the last two years and successfully launched three major projects — Al Khuwair Hospitality Project, Salam Air and the development of Entertainment Destination in Barka. According to Maan al Salmi, associate manager for research and development in the development department, ASAAS, the group is aiming to enrich the quality of life and that will be achieved through developing specified sectors. The targeted sectors are tourism, logistics, education, healthcare, transportation and retail. “We take the projects as greenfields taking all the necessary steps, initiative and developing the idea, the product and promoting to local and international investors.”
“The project will consist of many entertainment facilities mainly a theme park, waterpark and a zoo as well as retail facilities, some hospitality components such as three, four and five star hotels in addition to entertainment centres. The idea is to develop entertainment destination for families not just for couple of hours but for long period like a weekend, three days and maybe even more,” said Al Salmi.
There has been a constant interest from foreign investors said Al Salmi, “There is a big interest from investors from abroad to join on board. Oman has always been looked upon as green field in tourism. Opportunities are still there. However, we felt that investors are always looking for solid local partners. Our role is to create the idea, develop it and package it so that investors understand what the opportunities available are so that they can make a decision on when to invest.”
The exhibition that is alongside the conference taking place at Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre showcases projects and entities from the tourism sector as well as SMEs.