Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran), has moved into 2018 with substantial momentum following successful accomplishments across its mixed-use projects and properties over the last three years. Omaran’s completed projects have made a significant contribution to the Sultanate’s socio-economic development through job creation for Omanis and investment growth alongside the increasing number of SMEs engaged in Oman’s tourism and MICE sector.
Talking about the overall progress of Omran’s initiatives over the last few years, Peter Walichnowski, CEO, stated: “I am pleased to report that Omran’s strategic focus on developing major tourism infrastructure and services to attract international tourists made considerable progress in 2017, with a comprehensive portfolio of active tourism assets now in place, which are either operational or well on track to opening this year”.
“2018 will see Omran completing a number of major projects aimed at the international market, but we will also begin to focus on the domestic tourism market by providing unique events, experiences and services for Omanis and residents across the Sultanate,” he added.
Being developed by Omran, Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) which opened in 2016, is the centre piece of Phase 1 of the new Madinat Al-Irfan Development in Muscat. It has played an integral role in driving the Sultanate’s MICE sector offering and firmly established the country as a major destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions. OCEC has hosted more than 184 regional and international events and conferences to date, with more than 50 future events already confirmed, including the World Cancer Congress in 2020.
“Owing to its state-of-the-art facilities, OCEC is continuously growing its exhibition portfolio to attract regional and international conventions and is projected to contribute RO130-150mn to GDP, 30 per cent of this amount from tourism revenues by 2030,” said Walichnowski.
The final stage of the OCEC will be completed in 2018 when the Convention Centre opens its doors further boosting the number of tourists and generating more job opportunities for Omanis and SMEs in the country.
Omran added 300 hotel rooms with the opening of the Crowne Plaza OCEC in 2017. With the highly-anticipated opening of the JW Marriott and W Hotel in Muscat in 2018, a total of 600 five-star hotel rooms will be delivered by the end of 2018.
Omran’s portfolio of hotels has grown to a total of 18, including new hotels and those transferred from the government. They welcomed a total of 405,000 guests in 2017 which was up 6 per cent on the previous years. Omran’s Alila Jabal Akhdar Resort was voted the best hotel in Oman by Conde Nast and was shortlisted in the top five hotels in the Middle East.
“Omran is now the largest hotel-owning company in Oman and one of the largest in the Middle East, having created a significant platform to support the government’s 2040 tourism strategy and growth plans.”
“Looking ahead, we will be exploring ways to share the value of our hotel portfolio with investors. This could be through creating a REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) or another kind of entity,” said Walichnowski.
In parallel to hotels and major development projects, Omran continues to receive and manage government tourism assets with the aim to improve amenities, services and enhance the visitor experience.
“During 2017, Al Hoota Cave welcomed more than 59,000 visitors, up more than 50 per cent year-on-year. In November 2017, Omran signed an agreement with local company, Bawader International, to manage the day-to-day operations of Nizwa Fort, one of Oman’s most treasured cultural and historic destinations recently transferred to OMRAN,” Walichnowski added.
Omran’s role as a government partner for foreign investors achieved another milestone in 2017 with the signing of a joint venture agreement with DAMAC Properties, UAE-based top property development company, to re-develop the Port Sultan Qaboos waterfront into a vibrant and world-class lifestyle destination, servicing both tourists and the local community.
“Work on site is planned to start this year, with Phase 1 projected to be complete by 2021. This is another flagship project that will ultimately generate jobs and business opportunities for the local community,” said Walichnowski.
Omran is actively involved in four other development partnerships with foreign investors creating Integrated Tourism Complexes (ITC’s) which are continuing to yield new hotel rooms and destinations across the country.
“To date, our development partnerships have delivered about 1,500 hotel rooms exceeding the original pipeline,” said Walichnowski.
“2017 was a landmark year for Omran and its success comes from the great support we get from the Government, our Board, and our highly motivated employees. The momentum which we have built up over the last few years will continue to drive us forward to achieve even greater things for the benefit of Oman and its people,” Walichnowski concluded.