MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Oman 2018 | REAL ESTATE & TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hisham Moussa, CEO of Alargan Towell, on capturing the middle-income segment, changing demographics, and streamlining the sector.

Hisham Moussa
BIOGRAPHY
Hisham Moussa has over 29 years of professional experience in real estate development and management, construction and project management, as well as architectural and interior design management. Before joining Alargan Towell, Moussa was the development director of Emaar Misr, the Egyptian subsidiary of UAE-based Emaar PJSC, leading global and regional real estate developer. Prior to Emaar, he was the senior head of engineering of Contrack International, a multinational contracting company, undertaking large-scale construction projects in the region. He is a Chartered Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and international associate of both the American Institute of Architects and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.

How will middle-income projects, when compared to other high-end integrated tourism complexes (ITCs), further assist in the development of Oman?

Middle-income projects are the strongest segment in the country. They have the purchasing power that keeps the country moving. The high-end segment normally constitutes 1-3% of the offerings in the market. However, affordable and social housing are the predominant segments in the real estate market; this is always where the market moves. The government has also realized this and is embarking on its own offerings in terms of integrated residential complexes (IRCs). It will offer the same formula to the public here. The next step is arranging strong partnerships between the government and real estate developers to develop such products, especially with developers like us who have experience and expertise. The entire country is moving toward offering affordable housing for Omani families that not only feature a home but also an integrated community.

What amenities are you implementing in order to attract youth and middle-income families?

Generally speaking, the first thing is our product and product range. This calls for smaller units that are more efficient and attractive for younger people as well as smaller families. The expat community in particular is shrinking and smaller units will be much more in demand than larger ones. Our ITC will have all of the relevant amenities such as shopping and entertainment as well as our own water park. We will also have dedicated land for a school. We also have an attraction at the main lagoon of the whole development. The combination of commercial, educational, recreational, as well as entertainment space will be the heart of the development. Because the project is not in a densely populated area, we have to create all that within the project so that people will enjoy living there.

When is the Al Nakheel project due to begin construction?

We just signed the development agreement with the Ministry of Tourism. We aim to break ground in early 2018. It is a seven- to 10-year project, broken down into three main phases. In addition to this project, we have a large land bank that we will develop eventually. However, between the current projects—like Al-Waha, which is a large project of approximately 690,000sqm of land that we also have in Barka, and another 500,000 available sqm—we will have our hands full developing these two areas.

What steps should be taken in order to set up a one-stop shop for the real estate sector?

One key aspect is to identify a certain entity, which is the caretaker responsible for the real estate development sector in Oman. This could be in the form of the Ministry of Housing or a division within the ministry, which is the Real Estate Development Authority currently. They are in a position to take the lead in establishing this one-stop shop for all developers based on their capabilities, categories, and land size. The Real Estate Development Authority is key to developing the legislative formula for this to work and have some sort of leading role in setting the projects on track from the onset. They are currently developing a concept whereby they are to be approached as the main point of contact, and they will do all the needed communication for initial approvals on the development companies' behalf with all of the other relevant entities. They will give companies preliminary approval so that they can take their project further. Once companies obtain that preliminary approval, everything should be smooth going from there.