One of the challenges facing tourism sector is the targeted contribution to the GDP which has been estimated at 6 per cent until 2040, and is considered to be too low despite a projected tourist arrival of 5 million a year. The proposed study targets to gradually raise the contribution of the sector to the GDP to 15 per cent by 2040. This was stated by Dr Ahmed bin Ali al Meshaikhi, Head of the Culture, Media and Tourism Committee, on Wednesday. He added that the study targets to activate the tourism sector and boost its contribution to the national economy by tapping the Sultanate’s huge tourism potentials.
He reviewed the challenges facing tourism industry, and said that the laws and legislations governing the sector need to be revised and amended, including the executive regulation of the Omani Tourism Law which has many loopholes and overlapping jurisdictions among the authorities concerned. Answering a question about the possibility of achieving a 15 per cent growth rate by 2040, Al Meshaikhi said the proposal to raise the tourism sector contribution to 15 per cent was based on a study presented by the under-secretary of the Ministry of Tourism. The ministry’s study said that the sector grew by 10.8 per cent in 2015, which means the growth rate can hit 9 per cent or 10 per cent by 2020, and the growth percentage can reach a minimum of 15 per cent by 2040.
Al Meshaikhi added that the job numbers associated with the tourism sector has reached more than 126,000, of whom only 11.6 per cent are Omanis. The number of nationals working in the sector is estimated to reach 166,000 in 2020 and 500,000 by 2040. Explaining the proposed study before the State Council, Shaikh Abdullah bin Shuwain al Hosni, Rapporteur of the Culture, Media and Tourism Committee of the State Council, highlighted the lack of infrastructure and basic services at some of the tourist sites which are rolled out for investment. This problem, he said, is a result of lack of coordination between the Ministry of Tourism and the authorities concerned, as well as delay in finalising the procedures, and the complications associated with the implementation mechanisms, absence of a single-window which could facilitate the procedures and resolve the problems faced by investors.
Al Hosni cited other obstacles crippling the tourism sector such as low Omanisation rate compared to other sectors, shortage of trained national cadre, lack of tourism facilities and high-priced services and lack of paved roads leading to the tourism and heritage sites. Meanwhile, the State Council approved the proposal “Reality of Tourism in the Sultanate” submitted by the Culture, Media and Tourism Committee, taking into account observations of the members and the formation of a drafting technical committee to incorporate their remarks. The meeting was presided over by Dr Yahya bin Mahfoudh al Mantheri, Chairman of the State Council.
Dr Mantheri expressed his deepest gratitude to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos on the occasion of granting him the International Arab Rights Award for 2016 by the Arab-European Centre of Human Rights and International Law. He also praised the process for organising the municipal elections for the second term, which was conducted earlier this week. The agenda included reviewing several topics that included a report on procedural session to elect a Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Arab Parliament where the Sultanate was elected as Deputy Chairman of the Arab Parliament. The agenda also included reviewing a report by the Secretariat General on the activities of the Council for the period between the regular sessions of the second annual sitting of the sixth term.