Tourism projects eye 88% private funding

By Samuel Kutty — MUSCAT: Jan 16 – The private sector is to have majority stake in projects envisaged under Tourism Strategy 2040. The government requires RO 18.936 billion for implementing projects identified in the tourism strategy. “Of this, 88 per cent is expected to be chipped in by the private sector,” Ahmed bin Nasser al Mehrzi, Minister of Tourism, said in an interview. The ministry is keen to promote private partnership and encourage local investors to establish private companies. These will get priority in the implementation process, said the minister. Meanwhile, Integrated Tourism Complex (ITC) projects hold the key to Oman’s drive in expanding its hotel accommodation facilities.

While Dhofar is seen increasing its share of hotel rooms from the present 12.6 per cent to 23.8 per cent, Muscat’s share is expected to witness a fall from 53 per cent to 30.8 per cent by 2040. The government is aiming for a total of 33,373 hotel rooms, 29,287 holiday home rooms and 17,262 rooms in ITCs as part of its Tourism Strategy 2040. While there are six ITC projects in the Sultanate, the Salalah Beach Project is set to be one of the largest spreading across 15.6 million square metres. The strategy focuses mainly on Dhofar, Al Dhakhiliyah, Musandam, Ras Al Hadd and Muscat. A contract has been signed with a consultancy company to prepare a detailed study for Dhofar, said Al Mehrzi, in the interview to Aqar magazine. “The study, expected to be completed in six months, will help us in marketing our projects as it will include integrated action plans,” he said.

Several projects involving local investors are being implemented in these regions. The Oman Investment Fund is also implementing some projects to develop tourism infrastructure in these regions. The ministry has simplified procedures for investors and is now providing more than 90 per cent of its services online. More services would be provided electronically. The ministry has already launched an e-portal for processing all applications and permits to save investors’ time and effort, the minister said. “The Omani government provides investors with many incentives, including a flexible taxation system. Investors are also granted land usufruct agreements that allow them to utilise land for 50 years,” he said. The ministry expects at least 11.7 million international and domestic tourists in 2040, a big jump from 1.4 million a year ago.