THE FUTURE IS HERE

Oman 2015 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hamza Selim,CEO of Muriya Tourism Development,on the four main projects his company has under development, and the growth of Oman as an international destination.

Hamza Selim
BIOGRAPHY
Hamza Selim comes from a hospitality background and holds a BS in Business Administration. He worked with Hyatt International for 27 years travelling far and wide, and holding prominent positions in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Egypt. He also served as Regional Director of Marketing, in charge of the Gulf countries, as well as being the Area Trainer responsible for Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Afterwards, he was the General Manager for Hyatt Regency’s Taba Heights property in Egypt. Selim joined Orascom in 2005, eventually becoming Managing Director of the El Gouna resort in Egypt.

What is the vision behind Muriya?

Oman is considered the second biggest market, after Egypt, in terms of project size and number for Orascom Development Holding. Muriya's chairman understood the potential of the tourism industry when he first came to Oman; this is why Muriya is developing four projects here. Muriya was established in 2006, and the first project began at the end of 2007, with construction commencing in mid-2008. Our four projects in Oman are: Jebel Sifah, 45 minutes from Muscat; Salalah Beach, which is 15 minutes from Salalah airport; As Sodah Island, off the south coast of Oman; and the last project will be “City Walk," in the heart of Muscat. In total, Muriya is developing more than 20 million sqm. Salalah Beach alone is 15.6 million sqm, and Jebel Sifah is 6.2 million sqm in size. The company's strategy is to build integrated towns. Muriya is not a hotel or gated-community developer. We develop towns. For example, our flagship project in Egypt, El Gouna, has 17 hotels, schools, universities, and 30,000 permanent residents. This is the vision for Oman, as well. In the last three years, we have opened three hotels at Jebel Sifah and Salalah Beach. No other developers in Oman have managed to do this, but this is just the first step. In the future, Muriya will have thousands of real estate properties. Also, unlike other Omani developers, Muriya is more focused on the tourism part. The company believes the future of tourism in the region is in Oman. The level and diversity of attractions in the country is unlike any other place in the Middle East. Oman has abundant natural assets, including more than 2,000 kilometers of coastline, mountains, safari, diving, fishing, and, its gem, Salalah. One day, we want these destinations to be on the international tourism map. Muriya will be the first to develop this area—it is the pioneer.

How is the international community receiving your projects, specifically the Salalah Beach project?

The first boutique hotel “Juweira" was opened at Salalah Beach in 2012, which initially only had 64 rooms. However, because of the high demand, it now has 82 rooms. In March 2013, Muriya opened the largest stand-alone hotel in Oman, with 400 rooms in total. This property is also Muriya's first five-star property. We are taking advantage of the fact that the new international airport in Salalah will open soon, because one cannot have sustainable tourism without proper infrastructure. Five years ago, there were only five flights per day from Muscat. Now, Qatar Airlines is flying directly from Doha. There is also a service from Air Arabia, Fly Dubai, and two charters from Scandinavia and Germany. Salalah Beach is an attractive destination between July and September for GCC guests. The rest of the year, a large number of people come from German, and there are Swedish charter tours to Salalah. When the new airport opens, there will be more traffic from Europe.

The Chairman of Orascom announced his intention to acquire stakes in two leading German tour operators, Raiffeisen Touristik Group GmbH (RT) and FTI Touristik GmbH (FTI). How will this benefit your activities?

It will help Muriya significantly. FTI is considered the third biggest tourism company in Germany. Muriya's chairman has a number of shares in this company. FTI has millions of clients per year, and this new decision to focus on tourism will help promote Muriya's work to a German audience. One of the charters already coming from Germany is from FTI. Moreover, we took part in an important international exhibition at the ITB Berlin. This is proof that Muriya is the biggest developer in the country. Usually, during international exhibitions, all Omani businesses go under one group with Oman's Ministry of Tourism, but in 2014 Muriya participated independently, with its own booth.