How Oman Can Position Itself to Be a Leader in Tourism on a Global Stage

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Like the rest of the GCC, oil is the largest part of the economy. With neighbouring countries such as Bahrain and the UAE, Oman has tourism encompassing a significant part of its economy. Part of Oman Vision 2040, as well as the National Programme for Enhancing Economic Diversification (Tanfeedh), tourism will play a key role in the economic development of Oman in the present and future. The government’s National 2040 Tourism Strategy aims to boost the sector’s contribution to GDP by 6 percent.

How can Oman position itself as a leader in the global stage in the tourism industry?

The fact is Oman already has an advantage with a rich history and landscape.

There are those outside the GCC, in particular, who might know little about Oman, but, it does have a natural advantage. First off, it is often claimed that Sohar was the birthplace of the legendary adventurer Sindbad. This potentially might be underrated but ask many across much of the globe, and, although they might not know much about Oman they generally would have heard of the name of Sindbad. The name and Sindbad’s adventure stories grew in popularity and in modern culture, the name is also popular, such as with the likes of American comedian David Atkins who uses Sinbad as his stage name.

Oman has also got an advantage in its diverse range of natural beauty and rich history. From its historical past and present as a major trading post between east and west to its stunning varied natural landscape, the country proves to have an advantage by default. This has allowed for Oman to strategize the way it attracts a broad range of tourists. From backpackers and adventurers to extreme sports fanatics to retiree to luxury travellers – Oman can appeal to a broad range of people.

THE COUNTRY CAN FOSTER LOCAL INNOVATION IN THE INDUSTRY AND ALSO UTILISE GLOBAL TRENDS

The country has the opportunity during economic reforms to foster both local talent and innovation in the tourism industry, as well as incorporating trends from abroad that can complement in the country’s ecosystem. First, as part of the country’s economic transformation, Oman is prioritizing the tourism industry as a key driver in the process of change in the economy. This, like other sectors in general, allows for the fostering of local Omani talent to contribute to the economy through entrepreneurship. Tourism, like any other sector, will require future Omanis, as well as expats in the country, to create new ideas and solutions to increase its product and services offering.

In addition, besides promoting local innovation, the country is also aware and should, like everywhere else in the world, learn from the competition and what it has to offer. A natural success story in the region is Dubai and historically Bahrain. What Dubai and Bahrain have become known for in the region should be what Oman should take some elements of, as it will allow for it to broaden its range of offering across various demographics. Also, there are some elements from traditional tourism hubs like London or Paris where Oman can learn from as well and adapt some latest tourism trends and complement it with what it’s producing natively in Oman.

THE COUNTRY IS THINKING AHEAD WITH FUTURE INFRASTRUCTURE AND PLANNING

Oman has its ambitious national strategies that plan to transform and diversify its economy, which it is thinking ahead and rightfully should. A big part of that, for instance, is the expansion of the airport in Muscat. The new $1.8 billion passenger terminal at Muscat International Airport commercially opened on 20 March 2018, which currently has initial annual capacity for 20 million passengers with an expansion plan for 75 million passengers per annum.

Accommodating the predicted influx of guests, some major hotel chains recently announced properties in Muscat, which drove the 12 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) the next three years from 10,924 rooms (2017) to 16,866 keys (2021). To note, the hotel supply in Muscat are mainly five-star properties, which accounts for 21 percent, and four-star, which has 24 percent.

There was an announcement this year that the Ministry of Tourism plans to open offices in the Middle East and Asia to boost more tourists from there; it already has offices in places like Dubai, Saudi Arabia, UK, India and France.

Oman’s 20-year strategy has already begun bearing fruit and is well on track to raise visitor numbers to 5 million per annum by 2040, where last year it welcomed more than 3 million tourists. Boosting other infrastructure to cater to the planned tourists, as well as promoting upcoming parts of Oman for visitors will be quite important.

Oman has a lot to offer to the world. Its rich history and natural beauty, which coupled with its ambitions and preparation for the future via infrastructure readiness can put Oman in a global position to cater to its legion of tourist fans seeking what the country has to offer.

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