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OMAN - Tourism

Said Al Shanfari

CEO, Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre

Bio

Said Al Shanfari started his career in the telecommunications sector, with an eight-year tenure with Omantel and Oreedoo. In 2017, he completed Oman’s National CEO Program, which prepared the next generation of Omani leaders. Al Shanfari holds an MBA from the University of Hull and a double bachelor’s from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He completed leadership courses from the London Business School and the IMD Business School and is an Associate Certified Coach. Al Shanfari was selected as one of the Top 100 Most Influential CEOs in Oman and OER Innovative CEO of 2023.

"OCEC is a unique convention and exhibition center in the region which has enabled it to attract a variety of international and regional events."

Said Al Shanfari, CEO of Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre, talks to TBY about how the venue stands ready to offer its first-class facilities for a variety of events.

How has the Omani meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) sector evolved in recent years?

In recent years, public and private stakeholders have increasingly recognized the potential of the MICE sector in Oman. The full establishment of the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre in 2019 and the subsequent urban and tourism development since then all indicate a real focus on the business events sector. There are three main reasons for this change: First, the growth of the MICE sector is indirectly linked with the rise in importance given to the tourism sector as a whole in Oman. With a growing number of tourists, including business professionals visiting Oman for leisure or trade, the whole tourism sector is growing. Second, we have been focusing on right type of infrastructure which supports the MICE sector itself: from expanding our convention center to creating first-class airport facilities, we have enabled delegates coming to Oman to have a seamless experience for their business travel. Lastly, we have also benefited from the regional interest for international and regional events. The GCC looks set to become one of the top destinations for the MICE industry due to its unique accessibility, safety, and innovative offering. Oman has seen an increase in international organizations wanting to host conferences or events here. In 2024 alone, we will host the Middle East Space Conference, the General Arab Insurance Federation Conference, and the RCOG World Congress, among 16 other international events. The heightened demand for events reflects the success of Oman’s efforts to position itself as a hub for MICE activities, fostering collaboration and investment opportunities.

What sets OCEC apart?

OCEC is a unique convention and exhibition center in the region which has enabled it to attract a variety of international and regional events. There are different factors that make us completely unique: our sustainability focus, our location, and our first-class facilities. As a green venue in the region, we have been leading in terms of sustainability initiatives, ensuring that our building is Gold LEED certified and developing our outdoor space with a unique garden protecting our local biodiversity with bee hives and lemon trees for instance. We have also partnered with the local Omani leader for EV charging stations, EVO, to install charging ports at the OCEC. For 2024, we are planning the launch of a brand-new solar panel project in collaboration with TotalEnergies that will see the OCEC becoming fully powered by solar energy. We also benefit from a favorable location, only 15 minutes from the airport, with first-class hotels and amenities close to our center. This distinguishes us from other venues in the region as we provide a stress-free and seamless experience for our delegates visiting the country. This also adds to our first-class facilities which span 100,000sqm, offering versatile indoor and outdoor event spaces, including a 22,000-sqm column-free exhibition hall, equipped with cutting-edge AV technology.

As a sustainable building and ecosystem, what challenges do you face in balancing profitability with sustainability?

In our industry, sustainability is profitable. Most delegates and event organizers are looking for venues which can offer first-class facilities while also reducing its impact on the environment. As an industry, we are trying actively to achieve net zero carbon emissions and reduce the impact that events can have on the environment. Investing actively in sustainable initiatives is profitable—it makes us stand out in the region, enables us to walk the walk, and invite leading event organizers in the sustainability field to host their events at our premises. We were created with a sustainable vision: beyond our environmental impact, we also care about social and economic sustainability, ensuring that the OCEC remains profitable, inject dynamism in our economy through its numerous events and remain an inclusive venue for all. Our journey towards sustainability is only starting, but it is at the core foundation of why the OCEC was created in the first place and will remain a leading factor in our business decisions

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