SETTING THE STANDARD

Oman 2016 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Sheikh Hamood Sultan Saif Alhosni, CEO of Saraya Bandar Jissah, on the importance of local investment, capitalizing on foreign interest, and what the industry is doing to make Oman a premier tourist destination.

Sheikh Hamood Sultan Saif Alhosni
BIOGRAPHY
Sheikh Hamood Sultan Saif Alhosni is the CEO of Saraya Bandar Jissah, Muscat’s newest integrated tourism complex development. Saraya Bandar Jissah was formed in 2008 through a partnership between Saraya Oman Holdings and the Government of the Sultanate of Oman’s tourism development and investment arm, Omran. In his current role, Hamood provides direction and guidance in the strategic development and execution of the project, as well as building and enhancing relationships with regulatory bodies, governmental agencies, industry specialists, key account clients, and the public at large. In addition, Hamood oversees all matters related to marketing and sales, financial modeling and project finance, and nurtures a work culture that places integrity and personal growth at the center of its ethos. Hamood began his career in 1994 as a Civil Engineer at Muscat Municipality, where he went on to become Director General of Technical Affairs in 2007. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Sultan Qaboos University in Oman in 1994.

As the first ITC project to launch in seven years, why is this project so important for the Oman market?

The development as a whole will be a key economic driver, creating job opportunities and encouraging further investment into the country. The traditional industries in Oman continue to play a vital role in the country's economy, and developers have been keen to boost the non-oil sectors of real estate and tourism. The Oman of today is a country with a fine-tuned vision for its tourism industry and is forging ahead with plans to build a premium destination, which targets discerning travelers and investors. The project will provide direct employment to roughly 800 people and a special emphasis has been placed on job training and creating employment opportunities to members of the local community.

Recent pictures of the development are bringing to reality the vision of the Saraya Bandar Jissah project. What are your thoughts on the pace of the project's development?

The development of the project is progressing on schedule. Our last quarterly construction update showed that a number of significant developments have taken place. The advanced earthworks and excavation on the site were completed in April 2015. A majority of the internal roadways have also been completed and the leveling of ground around the lagoon, supportive walls, dams and channels has been completed. 80% of the primary infrastructure has also been completed, including the high and low voltage electricity network, water network, irrigation system, sanitary drainage, and telecommunication network, including high-speed internet. All residential zones are progressing as per the schedule.

With five residential zones and a range of other amenities, the scale of the project is substantial. How are sales for the residences at the moment, and what are the main attractions for both local and international buyers?

The response to our properties in terms of sales has been exceptional and the demand continues to track ahead of our sales forecasts. We have seen a similar trend for every subsequent sales batch thereafter. The main attraction is its accessible location, right in the heart of the touristic hub of Muscat. The project offers an unmatched balance of convenience, accessibility and exclusivity; effortlessly balancing the best aspects of an ITC while maintaining the natural beauty of the site.

Saraya Bandar Jissah has a range of partners and collaborations for construction, contracting, and financing. What opportunities will the project provide to create jobs and what role can SMEs play within this project?

Great effort has been made in marrying together a sleek and individual modern design with the traditional surroundings of Bandar Jissah, the traditional Omani architectural methods and design elements. The hotels alone will generate about 650-700 jobs. Many more jobs will be created for the operation and management of facilities. Cumulatively, we are looking at about 800 direct job opportunities. Moreover, in the tourism sector, any direct job opportunity will indirectly generate three or more additional jobs at the macroeconomic level. Prior to the hotels being fully operational, we will employ Omanis and train them in accordance with international standards and best practices to ensure they are well-prepared to work in the hotels.

Looking in particular at the partnership with Jumeirah, what benefits can this brand bring to the project, and how can projects such as Saraya Bandar Jissah contribute to the developing identity of Oman as a destination for real estate and tourism?

Jumeirah Group is a Dubai-based international luxury hotel chain known for their high-end, luxurious, and distinctive properties. Their entrance into the market will set new levels of excellence within Oman's hospitality sector, and bring a wealth of global experience from their operations in the luxury hotel and travel sector.

The Sultanate's tourism industry is starting to grow considerably, and over the next 10 years the projected employment growth within Oman's travel and tourism sector is set to increase 3.8% annually according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. Within the next 10 years, the sector is estimated to contribute 7.3%, or OMR 3,222.3 million to the GDP. These figures are clear evidence of the sector's increasingly important role.