Hotel rooms’ boom set to woo tourists

By Samuel Kutty — MUSCAT: Feb. 21 – The hospitality sector is all set to take the lead role in Oman’s tourism growth as thousands of hotel rooms are to be added to woo more tourists to the country. The Ministry of Tourism expects more than 50 per cent increase in room supply in segments ranging from luxury resorts to budget hotels to be set up in areas that include Integrated Tourism Complexes (ITC). The number of hotel rooms in the country is expected to be more than 20,000 by 2020, while the ministry wants to provide a total of 80,000 rooms for accommodation in line with its 2040 Tourism Strategy. While Muscat will continue to retain the lion’s share of accommodation, it is expected to drop from the present 53 per cent to 30.8 per cent in 2040 as more hotel rooms come up in other parts of the country.

Dhofar’s share will rise from the current 12.6 per cent to 23.8 per cent. According to Ahmed bin Nasser al Mehrezi, Minister of Tourism, the projects opened in the recent past have helped in increasing the number of available rooms and also enhanced competition among operators in terms of services and rates. “The ministry attaches special care to providing accommodation and facilitating investment in the sector. It also intensifies the efforts made to increase the number of hotel rooms and improve the quality of services provided at hotels in various governorates,” the minister said in a recent interview. Special emphasis has been given to hotel facilities that meet the needs of the market and also improving the quality of services provided to tourists, he said.

According to the minister, the added value to the hotel and restaurants in the Sultanate stood at RO 226 million in 2015, while the added value to the tourism sector in general stood at RO 748.6 million. “The Sultanate provides investors with an attractive investor-friendly environment. About RO 18.936 billion is needed to implement the projects identified in Tourism Strategy 2040, of which 88 per cent will be by the private sector,” the minister added. In coordination with the Ministry of Housing, 11 usufruct agreements were signed this week to build resorts, hotels and tourism camps spread across the country, as part of tourism ministry’s plan for infrastructure growth.

Apart from the existing Alila and Anantara in Jebel Akhdar, another luxury resort is expected to come up in the area. An agreement has been signed to hand over 30,000 sqm of land to Bawabat al Sahra’ al Hadeetha company for building a resort in the Wilayat of Bidiyah. Alem al Ijadah has been signed to get 18,156 sqm of land to build a hotel in Dima Wa al Taeen, while 15,000 sqm of land will be given to each of Muntaja’ al Hara and Bahjat al Quloob for a resort in Nizwa and a tourist camp in Saham, respectively. Also included in the agreements are allotment of 10,000 sqm of land to each of Ruba al Jazeera and Al Bathel lilmashari’ al Shamilah to build a hotel in Salalah and Izki respectively.

A 7,942 sqm plot to Wahat al Khair to build a hotel in Dima Wa al Taeen, 5,057 sqm of land to Al Muharik al Asasi in Wadi al Ain in Ibri to build a hotel, and 5,000 sqm plots to each of Qalb al Muheet and Al Madinah al Khadra to build a hotel in Salalah and Barka respectively. The Omani hospitality market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.2 per cent from 2015 to reach $1.0 billion in 2020. This growth is attributed to a 5.3 per cent annual rise in hotels and serviced apartment room inventory and a 6.3 per cent increase in international tourist arrivals.