Muscat, Jan 20 – The Al Mouj Muscat’s annual marathon has now become an important calendar in the country’s sporting event and it is generating income to local business people as well as boosting the tourism industry, economists and tourism, experts said. Organised by Oman Sail, the marathon, which is now in its seventh year, has picked up a reputation for being one of the most-coveted events in the Gulf region. But thanks to the collective efforts, the marathon is fast becoming an economic contributor to the Sultanate and a major tourist attraction at a time when Oman is looking to diversify away from oil income.
Economic experts said the event is well-positioned to be a crowd-puller and a major income-generator for traders, businesses and retailers.
“The marathon, which started with the objective to promote the Wave Muscat Project, has now matured to become part of the solution to bring in the much-needed extra revenue to the local businesses and small traders. It is a windfall for hotels, restaurants, tour guides, taxis, airlines and retailers from tourists and visitors,” Ahmed Al Mukhaini, an economic consultant, told the Observer.
Statistics show that over 70,000 visa requests were approved or granted a few days before the marathon. This was unprecedented demand surpassed the normal days during winter. The same statistics show that over 16,000 visitors from the UAE and Qatar flew over in the same week compared with the normal weeks.
Organisers expected 6,000 runners from over 20 different countries, which proved the popularity of the event. But the throngs of people who lined up the roads were in many thousands.
Tourism experts also said there is a future potential of attracting a much bigger number of “sporting tourists”.
“The race, with careful marketing, can attract big international names in marathon. That will be a big boost to the national tourism campaign. Such events can really put Oman on the global map as one of the major sporting destinations in the world,” Iris Jones, an Irish freelance travel journalist who participated as one of runners, said.
Regional tourists who are regular visitors to the marathon also praised the efforts of the organisers.
“My family and I came especially for the marathon. We enjoyed watching people run in cool weather and many of my friends are starting to notice this event in the United Arab Emirates. I hope there will be more improvement next year,” Ahmed al Bashashi, a UAE visitor, said.
Local traders also rejoiced the extra money that landed in their cash tills during the weekend.
“We had our restaurant full the whole day. We served over seven hundred meals on Friday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We normally serve less than 50 meals a day. We were really stretched but it was a good income. I hope there will more events like this from the Al Mouj Muscat,” Hassan al Dughaishi, owner of a restaurant in Mawaleh, opposite the Al Mouj Muscat, said.