Tourism

Bringing Tourism to Oman in 2024

Be they intrepid explorers or shirtless sunseekers, tourists are ever hungry for that memorable new destination with the proverbial “X” factor that might even become a future favorite.

Image credit: Shutterstock / Kertu

Two years of COVID-19 has only served to pull the bow back further, providing an even more powerful trajectory for the global tourism industry. Oman, pursuing its 2040 Vision of economic diversification, is determined not to miss out on this.

In December 2021, in the midst of the pandemic, the government announced a raft of tourism-related investments aimed at lifting visitor revenue to USD22.5 billion by 2040, almost nine times the 2019 figure.

The Sultanate welcomed roughly 3.2 million tourists in 2021, a 12% increase on the previous year.

Oman is also keen to showcase its wider tourism appeal from sun-based leisure to cultural discovery to tap regional as well as wider international interest.

Two sides of the coin

Government support for a competitive, high-quality industry of diversity offerings has involved local training for employment, along with the engagement of local SMEs to build and service Oman’s tourism assets.

Private capital loves an incentive, and the Tourism Ministry has formulated a mechanism that includes usufruct contracts for tourist lands, ceding potential investors legal rights to use and derive income from tourism assets.

The government’s designated bridge between public and private sectors is the Oman Tourism Development Company (OMRAN Group).

The group, set up in 2005, is tasked with executing the 2040 National Tourism Strategy. It identifies priority investments and schemes of the greatest potential. OMRAN Group is also the champion of sector sustainability, and of the proliferation of local lifestyle communities that can contribute diversely to wider economic growth.

It is also effectively a watchdog ensuring that development builds on, rather than overshadows Oman’s traditional culture and natural environment.

Training for tomorrow

The tourism sector requires a steady stream of qualified workers at all levels to sustain sector momentum and advance the process of Omanization. OMRAN’s Midhyaf initiative does this, being a specialized training for employment’ program partnering the Ministry of Labor.

Students at the Oman Tourism College (OTC) receive real-world training at OMRAN’s hospitality assets, including the W Muscat, Crowne Plaza Resort Salalah, Crowne Plaza Muscat, Crowne Plaza Duqm, Alila Jabal Akhdar, InterContinental Muscat, Barcelo Mussanah Resort, and Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Training to exacting international standards raises the level of national competency demanded by the private sector.

Midhyaf also benefits from partnerships with world-leader hospitality academies and institutes such as the Saudi Academy of Culinary Arts (ZADK), the British Butler Institute, and the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI).

Manning the ship

The 2,000 or so initial applicants to Midhyaf confirmed the young population’s faith in the sector. And in October of 2022, as part of the celebration of Omani Youth Day, OMRAN Group applauded its first graduates.

These individuals had received between four to nine months of specialized on-the-job training. And as OMRAN notes, the graduates had “received the opportunity to earn up to 11 professional certificates based on the type of training program they pursued.”

On the day Qais Zahir Al Hosni, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Oman Tourism College (OTC), voiced hopes that gradates would “transfer the knowledge and skills they learned at OTC to their workplace [thereby] raising Oman’s profile in their respective fields and areas of expertise.”

Midhyaf is just a part of Oman’s tourism content-building drive. At the graduation ceremony, OMRAN Group revealed the Tumoohi Syiahi project (My ambition is Tourism), an umbrella program for all training and development schemes, including Midhyaf, the pathways program (Masarat), and the Tadreeb training program.

Lateral thinking

It seems then, that Oman is banking on competitiveness to optimize its tourism sector, by stimulating the growth of new verticals. Jasim Al Alawi the CEO & Founder of adventure tourism business Darrbak tells TBY that, “The thing is, Oman is more focused on real estate in tourism. However, we do not need a five-star hotel or resort; we need more experiences and activities.”

He goes on to add that “In the entire GCC, there are two places where you can find ad-venture tourism.” He notes, too, that five languages are spoken in Oman, with each group of speakers representing a unique culture to be discovered.

Meanwhile, Issa Al Sawafi, the Founder of adventure tourism enterprise Wadi Adventure, highlights the communal current running through the sector. “Many of the adventure tourism companies that have been established were a direct result of the community that I started.”

This shared responsibility of all players to raise overall excellence chimes perfectly with the National Tourism Strategy. And naturally enough, a wider awareness of what Oman is all about builds the soft power crucial to its international standing, and is key to bringing tourism to Oman in 2024.

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