Oman: Where Hospitality Grows Stronger

Oman: Where Hospitality Grows Stronger

Tourism arrivals to Oman will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13 percent between 2018 and 2021, according to a report by Colliers International. The country is not only in the midst of a public sector drive to boost its business attractiveness, but is also witnessing a growing number of private sector projects that are expected to help transform the sultanate into a tourism jewel. HN was given the opportunity to interview Haitham Al Ghassani, assistant director general of promotion and awareness at the Sultanate of Oman’s Ministry of Tourism, and discover more about the country’s achievements and goals

Oman’s tourism sector has been expanding steadily over the last five years, with the growth figures confirming an exceptional performance, which has given both the government and the private sector the drive to set the sector’s development agenda in ‘high gear’ and pursue major infrastructure developments. Tourism arrivals from the world have been increasing significantly. The largest market for the sultanate is the GCC; alone, it accounted for 48.8 percent of visitors in 2017, while India, Germany and the UK posted 9.8, 3.1 and 4.4 percent, respectively. These developments have naturally attracted stronger interest from regional and international companies looking for business expansion in the sultanate. This was evident from the increase in the number of companies looking to enter Oman’s tourism market.

Mega-projects have sizeable impact
The Omani government is confident about the current joint efforts with private businesses, which have been fostering strong partnerships in the tourism sector. From 2015 to 2018, several mega-projects have got underway, in line with the Omani Tourism Strategy 2040. This strategy is based on two approaches: the first focuses on developing a series of tourism facilities in one location and the second looks to expand the distinctive tourism experiences that will attract tourists to spend several days in specific geographic areas. These destinations are being designed to create a long-lasting experience for visitors and make a real impact on their lives. Some of the latest developments include the Oman Convention Bureau and the new Muscat International Airport, which are geared up to accommodate the major business expansion expected in travel and the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) industries in Oman in the coming years. There are also numerous luxury hotels that have been built recently in various regions and governorates of the sultanate. These tourism development projects will help accommodate the growing numbers of tourists coming to the sultanate and meet the sector’s growing needs and requirements. The strategy also aims to enhance the sultanate’s position on the world tourism map and make it attractive through its unique tourism components. The new hotel developments are booming, with a total of 13 new establishments which have started or are in the process of starting their operations in Oman. Some of them include the dusitD2 Palm Mall of Muscat, which is approaching completion and is expected to house Oman’s first snow village and aquarium. There is also an increasing number of luxury developments keen to capture and preserve Oman’s bountiful natural heritage, such as the Anantara brands, with the Anantara Al Baleed Resort Salalah and the Anantara Jabal Al Akhdar Resort located 2,000 meters above sea level. In addition, Kempinski Hotel, situated along Muscat’s coastline, at The Wave, is now open.

Business opportunities
Oman has a distinctive heritage, having been shaped by its rich geographic, natural and historical role in the region. We take pride in our loyalty to ancient culture and soulful attitude towards development. The warmth of our hospitality is felt in our customs – coffee with cardamom and dates to start with – in addition to eclectic cuisines. The richness of Oman’s natural environment is unparalleled; the sun and sea, the desert regions as a gateway to the Empty Quarter, the rock mountains, as well as the southern Dhofar province, Salalah, brimming with archaeological sites, fruit plantations and wildlife, such as oryx, gazelles and migratory birds. All of these components combine to make the country a special touristic offering.


• The direct contribution of the travel and tourism industry to the Omani GDP is USD 2.2 billion, which represented 3.2 percent of the total GDP in 2017. The contribution is forecast to almost double and reach USD 4 billion in 2028.

• The sector employs 72,500 people and is expected to be providing 95,000 jobs in 10 years’ time.

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• USD 710 million were invested in the sector in 2017, a figure that is forecast to rise to almost USD 1 billion in 2028.

Source: World Travel and Tourism
Council – Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2018 Oman


Katrin Herz
General Manager of Al Bustan Palace, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company L.L.C

1. Our national airline, Oman Air, is actively driving tourism, with the announcement of new routes to potential source markets like Istanbul and Moscow, and an increase in the number of flights to existing source markets, such as Milan and Paris. The relaunch of the Maldives route is a fantastic opportunity for global travelers who were indecisive about their final destination. They now have a chance to combine a trip to Oman with a stopover in the Maldives throughout the year.

2. New visa regulations support this strategy for tourism growth, with a visa upon arrival for Russian, Chinese and Indian travelers among others. The restrictions that were in place until now were a clear obstacle for visitors from these key markets.

3. The new Muscat International Airport provides an enhanced experience for global travelers, with the latest technology and state-of-the-art facilities, and an upgraded level of safety and security.

4. The MICE industry is strengthening in Oman, as reflected by the new Oman Exhibition Center, which is developing and will be hosting a number of significant events in 2019.

5. The Sultanate of Oman has identified the tourism industry as one of the main focus areas to diversify its economy and as a result, the Ministry of Tourism is developing a number of exciting projects to further enhance the travel experience and open new tourism sites to visitors across different regions of the country.


Oman Tourism Development Company (OMRAN), the executive arm of the Government of Oman for the development of the tourism sector, and Majid Al Futtaim, have announced a strategic partnership to develop the western area of Madinat Al Irfan. The joint venture will see the development of a vibrant, mixed-use community that will serve as the new urban center for Muscat. Madinat Al Irfan is the sultanate’s largest urban development project and is set to contribute to Oman Vision 2040. The eastern area currently being developed by OMRAN sits alongside Wadi Park, just minutes from the newly opened Muscat International Airport. It is a multi-use district, adjoining the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre (OCEC), a world-class venue for international conferences, trade shows and concerts. The new, mixed-use community is located at the western area of Madinat Al Irfan and spans over 4.5 million square meters.

The joint venture project investment value is estimated at OMR 5 billion (USD 13 billion), over a period of 20 years and is anticipated to create more than 30,000 direct and indirect jobs in the country. Upon completion in three key stages, Madinat Al Irfan will feature more than 11,000 residential units, comprising villas, townhouses and apartments, 100,000 m2 of retail space and 700,000 sqm of office space, as well as a number of cultural and lifestyle offerings. The development will serve as an integrated, sustainable and inclusive community, true to the values of Omani society. It will cater to all segments of the local community, providing a model for future urban developments, not just locally, but across the region, while creating a new urban lifestyle not yet seen in the sultanate. OMRAN has also reported on the progress of its plans to open a second hotel within the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) precinct at Madinat Al Irfan. Set to be completed by the end of this year, in parallel with the convention center, the 5-star JW Marriott will open its doors in early 2019. The 305-room property will be the first JW Marriott hotel to open in Oman. With over 1,200 square meters of flexible function space directly connected to the OCEC, multilingual and experienced event planners, two grand ballrooms, six meeting and boardrooms, tailored menus and bespoke wedding services, the hotel will cater to travelers’ every need.

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