Expansion of hotel rooms, a new international airport, the Oman Exhibition and Convention centre and the growing footprint of Oman Air is expected to give a fillip to tourism growth in the country
One of the most important sectors for the country’s fast diversification programme is undoubtedly tourism. The National Strategy for Tourism 2040 aims at making the Sultanate as one of the most important tourism destinations with a robust 6 per cent annual growth in tourism revenue, besides doubling the number of tourists to five million visitors by 2040.
As a key enabler of job creation and diversification, Oman government has been developing the sector by building infrastructure, encouraging private investments and conducting extensive international promotion campaigns.
The Sultanate, like other GCC states, is expanding capacity at airports and developing infrastructure to complement the government push for boosting visitor traffic, thus providing a major incentive for increasing hotel capacities.
There has been a marked growth in arrivals of international tourists. The Sultanate received 2.05 million international travellers in 2014, 2.47 million visitors in 2015 – up by 17.7 per cent and finally reaching the 3 million-mark in 2016. By 2040, the Sultanate hopes to reach a total of five million international travellers. In keeping with this ambitious target for tourism growth, luxury hoteliers are foreseeing lot of potential in Muscat.
Of late, the strategy is to increase the share of investment by the private sector in tourism projects to 88 per cent, especially in building hotel rooms. Massive infrastructure development and hotel projects are underway to meet the growing demands of the tourist inflow expected in the coming years.
Driven by the bright prospects of the tourism industry, several international hotel chains as well as domestic players have laid down robust hotel and serviced apartment development plans, which are under different stages of planning and development.
In fact, Oman is considered a market brimming with opportunities for the hospitality sector. Hotel room capacity is expected to increase by 6,000 rooms by 2020. The Sultanate is expecting total investment in the tourism sector to reach RO1.8 billion in the private sector by 2020. Moreover, projects like the new Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre (OCEC) and the international airport are all pointed towards a growing hotel market. Upcoming properties at the OCEC include JW Marriot and Crowne Plaza.
With Muscat undergoing rapid development and significant funds being invested into major tourism infrastructure projects, the time is right for the international hotel chains to enter the city.
Popular luxury chains like W Hotel, Kempinski and Jumeirah have planned their entry in Muscat by end of 2017, while 2016 witnessed launch of Grand Millennium and re-launch of Sheraton after renovation. Further, the expansion strategy of Movenpick Hotels & Resorts in Oman is gathering pace with the company revealing plans to operate its third property in Muscat. The global hospitality company has recently inked an agreement with Oman’s Golden Group of Companies to manage the 370-key Movenpick Hotel Muscat Airport, part of a new upscale mixed-use project under development near Muscat International Airport, which will also feature retail and commercial space covering 3,000sqm and 10,000sqm, respectively, when it opens in 2021. It expands Movenpick’s inventory pipeline to almost 1,000 keys countrywide after deals to operate Movenpick Hotel & Apartments Al Azaiba Muscat and Movenpick Hotel Bausher Muscat were recently signed.
The three properties will capitalise on Oman’s growing importance as a regional hub for business and leisure tourism, spurred by the development of new infrastructure that ranges from conference centres to cruise terminals.
Further, Kempinski Hotel Muscat will open in Al Mouj by the fourth quarter of this year. With 310 rooms and 12 restaurants, the five-star Kempinski will be the first hotel in the Al Mouj tourism complex and cater to tourists from both abroad and the Sultanate. Jumeirah Group will operate luxury resort in Muscat soon. The resort will consist of two hotel components, one consisting of 206 rooms and the other of 106 rooms, located in at Bandar Jissah, near Qantab, nestled between the Hajjar Mountains and the Gulf of Oman. In yet another development, the lavish W Hotel is scheduled to launch by early 2018 and will comprise of 290 rooms, a specialty restaurant, all-day dining restaurant, infinity pool and spas as well as a fitness centre, retail facilities and tennis court.
Rotana, one of the leading hotel management companies in the region, plans to open nine hotels in Oman by 2020. The upcoming properties will add more than 1,600 rooms to its existing inventory of 400 rooms in the Sultanate, taking the total tally to over 2,000.
Muriya Tourism Development Company, a joint venture between Egypt’s Orascom Development Holding and Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran), plans to invest between $60 million and $70 million to develop additional hotel rooms and other facilities in Hawana Salalah and Jebel Sifah. Muriya has invested more than $600 million in building hotels and infrastructure facilities in Hawana Salalah and Jebel Sifah resorts.
The hotel group is adding close to 300 rooms in Salalah in the next few years. Presently, Muriya has some 900 hotel rooms – around 800 rooms in Hawana Salalah and close to 100 rooms in Jebel Sifah. The number of hotel rooms at Muriya properties in four and five-star categories will reach 1,000 by the end 2017.
Apart from a massive expansion of hotel rooms, the development of Muscat International Airport, the partial opening of an international exhibition and convention centre and route expansion programmes of Oman Air and the newly-launched budget carrier are all expected to aid tourism growth in the country.
The tourism sector will get a shot in the arm with the opening of a state-of-art airport in Muscat sometime towards the end of 2017, while new routes of Oman Air and budget carrier Salam Air will help to attract tourists from within the region and other international destinations. The new state-of-the-art terminal at the Muscat airport has a capacity to handle 12 million passengers per annum, which can be scaled up to 24 million, 36 million and 48 million in different phases if needed. The Muscat airport, which has two parallel runways, will also have 96 check-in counters, 29 passenger boarding bridges, 30 aircraft remote stands, a baggage processing capacity of 5,500 bags per hour, and a hotel with 90 rooms.
Of late, Oman Air has added three destinations – Manchester, Nairobi, and Guangzhou – to its routes from Muscat, while Salam Air started its flights to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and few other destinations.
Apart from natural beauty, Oman offers a range of cultural and sports activities like scuba diving, boat trips, dolphin watching, Royal Opera House, ancient forts and the national museum. The upcoming Duqm Tourist Complex featuring a mall, hotels, entertainment centre, and water theme park is likely to have a large impact on tourism.
After developing major integrated tourism complexes (ITCs) like Al Mouj and Muscat Hills, another ITC is taking shape in Quriyyat, which is going to be the first freehold ITC project in the last seven years. The new tourism venture is part of the country’s strategy to strengthen facilities for tourists.
Quriyyat Tourism Complex, which will be developed in three different phases over a 15 year period by the private sector, will have three hotels, a nine-hole golf course, commercial and residential complexes, along with a marina. The first phase, which will have an investment of RO100 million, is expected to be ready by 2021. The entire tourism complex will cover a total area of 1,282,300 square metres and the total investment in three phases is estimated at RO385 million. Overall, the prospects of the tourism sector in Oman seems bright and promising.
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Rotana, one of the leading hotel management companies in the region, plans to open nine hotels in Oman by 2020
Oman Air has added three destinations – Manchester, Nairobi, and Guangzhou to its routes from Muscat
Salam Air started flights to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and a few other destinations
After developing major integrated tourism complexes like Al Mouj and Muscat Hills, another ITC is taking shape in Quriyyat, which is going to be the first freehold ITC project in the last seven years