A BIT OF THE GOOD STUFF

Oman 2016 | TOURISM | FOCUS: LUXURY FACILITIES

As a tourism destination in the Middle East, not many destinations have the diversity that Oman has. Oman's tourism sector has been quiet for some years, but the Ministry of Tourism has determined its target demographic; the high-end tourist. The necessary infrastructure is now being brought into the tourism industry to facilitate this target, through an increase in the number of luxury hotels. The Ministry itself has been the major protagonist of the initiative to promote high-end tourism. Her Excellency Maitha Saif Majid Al Mahrouqi, Undersecretary to the Ministry of Tourism, highlighted that Oman was looking to attract “the premium tourist, the responsible tourist who respects the culture and environment, and the tourist who can add value to the economy as well." These three tourist types are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and the idea of high-end tourism not only refers to the financial wealth of the tourist, but also the cultural sensitivity and active interest of each visitor. An important feature of high-end tourism is the fact that Oman has also witnessed an influx from a wider range of countries.

Her Excellency pointed to the fact that new markets were being targeted in particular in the US and Asian countries such as China, while Europe continues to be a major market for the Sultanate as well. GCC tourists, who have historically accounted for the majority of Oman's tourists, have also continued to enjoy the opportunities on offer. Salalah has arguably been one of the major reasons for this, and tourist numbers especially from the GCC have increased noticeably over the course of the past year. The opening of the new airport in Salalah is playing an important role to facilitate this, while Salalah Rotana Resort and Zuweira hotels provide the upscale hospitality facilities. These two hotels are the first two to be operational as part of the Salalah Beach Integrated Tourism Complex (ITC). The overall development will feature seven hotels in total, a demonstration of the future importance of Salalah for Oman's tourism industry in the future. ITCs are a signature part of Oman's tourism and real estate industries but they are playing a new role in hosting luxury hotels to fit with their image. Al Mouj Muscat is the oldest ITC in the country, and has already made strong progress to cater to the high-end tourist. The Almouj Golf Course is arguably the most prevalent golfing spot in the Muscat area, highly popular among Omanis and expatriates alike. Adding to that will be the installment of the five-star Kempinski Hotel, which will bring a combination of business and luxury tourists. The use of the ITC to promote the brand is highly significant. Hotels such as the Intercontinental and Grand Hyatt have been a feature of Muscat's hospitality industry for a number of years, with their locations in the center of Muscat. However, the new Kempinski Hotel's location in Al Mouj provides added luxury and tranquility. With luxury infrastructure already in place, guests at the Kempinksi will not only be able to appreciate the hotel's 5-star appeal, but also the rest of Al Mouj's many facilities The same can be said of the new ITC being built in Saraya Bandar Jissah, the newest one to be built in the coastal outskirts of Muscat. With two luxury hotels to be operated by Dubai based Jumeirah Group, the grand opening of the resort in 2017 will certainly add to Oman's high-end tourism capacity.