Sports can be next tourism avenue

986479By Kabeer Yousuf — MUSCAT: To a country that is diversifying its national revenues with a motley of additional sectors including tourism as the major national income generator, sports tourism is promising to be a major area that can fetch exactly what the ambitious nation is looking forward to, according to industrial experts. When Americas Cup World Series came to Oman, an independent report by KPMG had found that every RO 1 spent on the event returned RO 11 to the nation. In addition to that return, it was also a long-term brand promotion exercise for Oman similarly to the recently held Condé Naste Conference Oman.
Although sports tourism is in the nascent stages of evolution in the country, it has all the potential to grow to be the next best promising avenue given the due attention and nurturing, says David Graham, Chief Executive Officer, Oman Sail.
“Sports tourism in Oman is in the early stages but has huge potential to be a major sector helping the national income. And, if more attention and encouragement that it deserves are given, it can prove to be a large GDP generator in the days to come”, Graham said in an exclusive interview with Observer.
Oman has given birth to some of the great sports personalities including Ali al Habsi in football; Barakat al Harthy as sprinter; Fatima al Nabhani for tennis; Sultan al Toqi in equestrian championship; and Ahmed al Harthy as car racer.
While the Royal cavalry overseas has recently marked the country in the international sports map, it also boasts of having hosted some of the coveted sports events including the Tour of Oman, the first Asian Beach Games and Al Mouj Muscat Marathon and is home for some of the international sports personalities who have marked the nation in the global map of sports. With all the relevant reasons, substantial support from all corners and unswerving efforts can make Oman a round-the-year sports destination, he opined.
Oman Sail serves as an extension of the Ministry of Tourism and applies its expertise to increase tourism to Oman using sports as a platform to raise the country’s global profile as a high-end tourism and investment destination. The sport of sailing has an impact on general tourism, marine tourism and sports event tourism. It is a vast growing global industry with important travel and tourism related benefits and subsequent economic impact on host destinations. Sailing usually attracts international followers who comprise the upper-segment of the socio-economic sphere. Oman Sail’s target tourism audience are wealthy and adventurous individuals who will appreciate the country’s beautiful environment.
Some of the major international sports events hosted by Oman last year include Tour of Oman, Louis Vuitton Americas Cup etc. By 2020, Oman Sail anticipates an increase in inbound tourist’s as a direct result of hosting a range of prestigious international sailing events, including EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour; Extreme Sailing Series; Mussanah Race Week; Laser World Championships; Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series; GC32 986483Championships; MOD70; DIAM 24; RS:X World Windsurfing Championships; and RC44 Championship.
Each of these events bring with it a wide range of international brands that support it and David says it was with some very collective efforts from the concerned authorities and stakeholders that enables Oman Sail to host them in Oman.
“The spin-off is that all these inbound people are going to be brand ambassadors of Oman as a tourist destination.
So, it has got immeasurable benefits. For example, Al Mouj Muscat marathon early this year saw 177 came from overseas representing 75 countries and events of this nature will help building Oman as a destination. This is an example of an event has huge potential to grow and attract more and more competitors from the region and around the world.”
Asked if sports as a national income source in Oman is gaining a slow pace, David said: “If you compare Oman with other countries, we are on the right path and operating at the right pace. What gives the sports events sector a boost is that the Ministry of Tourism has a comprehensive long-term strategy that supports these initiatives and emphasises the importance of sporting events. The ambitious expansion of Muscat airport, the present Salalah airport, and key investments in hospitality can also aid tourist inflow in the coming years and drive the success of the national sports events strategy.”
He added that the support that sports in the country is receiving is also an inspiration for young Omanis to come forward with their sports talents.
“What we are doing is gearing up our youth towards success in sports. Teams in sports are crucial in sending out key messages about the country overseas and have wide range of far reach socio-economic benefits for the country. When your kids show some sort of interest in sports, encourage them because they have more propensities to become successful athletes”.
The other distinctive benefit of sports is that you can have a healthy generation and a productive population is the prerequisite for a sound economy. Having a healthy generation can also reduce the burden on the state for spending money on public health.
Thirdly, when more youngsters are into sports and all their energy is diverted into productive and proactive purposes, the anomalies like drugs can also be kept at a bay. Sports also teaches several key skills including discipline, responsibility, leadership and teamwork.
“To achieve this, it’s crucial for schools to stress the importance of sports and divert the attention of their students towards physical activities to complement academia”.
Asked about the support from various public and private companies in the country, David said “We are very happy with the corporates who come forward with support to our various sports initiatives and without them, most of our events wouldn’t have materialised.”