SAILING TOWARD SUCCESS

Oman 2018 | REAL ESTATE & TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to David Graham, CEO of Oman Sail, on developing the company's three pillars of sports, tourism, and commerce.

David Graham
BIOGRAPHY
David Graham is the CEO of Oman Sail, a national initiative established to contribute to the development of Oman and its people through the sport of sailing, and has more than 20 years of experience in the sports industry. He joined Oman Sail as CEO in 2009 and has since established a globally recognized brand that has brought some of the most prestigious sailing races to Oman and successfully established national youth, women, and offshore sailing teams. These teams have represented the country internationally and won multiple sailing medals and titles, including two world records for the Sultanate of Oman.

What is Oman Sail's role in the development of the country?

Oman Sail was established in 2008 with His Majesty's blessing to rekindle Oman's maritime heritage, promote the Sultanate of Oman through sailing, and provide long-term learning opportunities for the youth of Oman. Our ultimate aim is to use sport to contribute to Oman's socio-economic development. Over the past few years, we have built a solid foundation around three main pillars: sports, tourism, and commerce. From creating a clear pathway for Omani children to become world-class athletes to hosting the most prestigious sporting events in Oman, all our activities have one underlying goal, and that is people development. Oman Sail provides both men and women with an equal opportunity to succeed in sports and contribute to their country. We have a very talented, energized, and 86%-Omanized workforce, all working toward the same objectives—success in sports, promotion of the Sultanate of Oman, and creating sustainable businesses within our areas of expertise.

How does the organization boost tourism to Oman?

Sailing is a sport that typically attracts international followers from the upper-segments of the economic sphere. Sailors are often cultured, nature-loving, discerning travelers who are willing to spend money on holiday. These are exactly the audiences that have been targeted by the Ministry of Tourism. Oman, with its beautiful coastline and ideal sailing conditions all-year round, is the perfect destination for any sailor or sailing enthusiast. Our contribution to tourism is through hosting international events in the Sultanate, creating rights-owned sailing events to gain exposure for Oman, competing in high-profile sailing races in the Ministry of Tourism's key markets, and managing strategic communication and marketing campaigns to promote Oman with affluent sailing audiences. We work very closely with the Ministry of Tourism and its market-based representatives to ensure that our messages are in sync and our key markets are aligned.

What new initiatives are you also developing?

Sports tourism is a high priority for both the Ministry of Tourism and the national diversification initiative, Tanfeedh. The Sultanate lends itself to a variety of sports that can be practiced here at scale. Based on our previous successes at hosting international events in the Sultanate, Oman Sail has been identified as the implementer of the Sports Tourism Strategy on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism. We are delighted by the opportunity and look forward to adding further value to the Sultanate of Oman through the expertise of our teams. We started this by successfully managing the Al Mouj Muscat Marathon this year with the Muscat Roadrunners, and have many more events to come over the next few years. We have also started two businesses to commercialize our expertise and reduce our reliance on government funds. One initiative is SEAOMAN, which offers quality boat charter, diving, sailing, and watersports services in the country. We have also started a new Corporate Personal Development (CPD) business, which utilizes our experience in delivering high performance sailing teams to instill interpersonal skills and build capacities in young Omanis through experiential learning.

What are your aspirations in sport?

The youth are the future of the Oman Sail program, and we are working hard toward equipping them with the right skills to raise the Omani flag and succeed internationally. From there, our youth sailors can take many directions, such as qualify for the Olympic Games, race in some of the world's biggest offshore races, or gain qualifications and work in the marine leisure businesses that we are creating. The global market for sports and adventure tourism is growing, currently valued at USD7.8 trillion. Oman is perfectly positioned to be a success story within that market, and our aspiration is to build a legacy around the sporting events that we host.