A LIFELONG HOLIDAY

Oman 2019 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | FOCUS: ITC DEVELOPMENT

As it tries to shake its dependency on oil and gas, the Omani government is strongly pushing to develop the country's tourism industry revenue, and an important part of that strategy is Integrated Tourism Complexes (ITCs).

Integrated Tourism Complexes (ITCs) are the only means through which non-Omani nationals can legally purchase property. Over the last few years, a number of ITCs have been built across the country, particularly along its coastline, and a new wave of development is coming as billions of dollars are lined up for investment in high-end real estate projects.

As the government seeks to attract visitors and foreign investment into the country, licensing new ITC projects can go a long way in pinching the interest of high-income companies and individuals in the Gulf and MENA region. According to government figures, 5,000 new homes are being built across five new developments for the expatriate and local communities across Oman. The projects fall under the government's ambitious OMR4-billion tourism drive.

While initially designed for short-term tourism, such projects have seen a consistent increase in long-term tenants over the years and have become consistent money-makers for developers as vacancies are consistently at the limit. Hence, the new drive for such projects is hardly surprising. The new five ITCs under construction will be named Diyar Ras Al Hadd Resort, Omagine, Quriyat Integrated Project, Naseem Al Sabaah Project, and Al Nakheel Project. In January 2018, the Quriyat Development Company (QDC), which is a partnership between the Al Madina Real Estate Company and Space Gulf Company, announced it had already laid the foundation stones for the construction of the Quriyat Integrated Project. Located in the Sultanate's Wilayat of Quriyat, this OMR385-million endeavor will be developed in several stages and include several hotels, a golf course, hundreds of housing units, an entertainment center, cinemas, restaurants, a health club, and a water park. It will also include a berth capable of receiving shipping and commercial vehicles.

ITCs have become increasingly popular as an investment opportunity among expatriate communities in Oman, but have also found great interest among many Omani's for its luxurious facilities, security, and location. ITCs have gained an important social status as they are seen as appropriate and attractive for the growing number of young professionals seeking housing in urban areas.

One of the ITCs most responsible for this high popular status is the Al Mouj ITC. Al Mouj has become a reference among Omani ITCs as the first of its kind to open its doors to foreign investors. First launched in 2006 by the waterfront in Muscat, as of 2015, it housed over 4,000 people, a number that is expected to rise by as much as 50% in the following years. While most ITCs, particularly in Muscat, are at near full capacity, constant expansions continue to open opportunities for new residents. Just in July 2018, Al Mouj launched its new three-bedroom townhouses within its Ghadeer Parks precinct project. The houses include two living areas, a courtyard, a housemaid's room, a store room, and a laundry area for a starting price of OMR259,000.
Today, Al Mouj offers its residents access to a golf course, a large shopping area, a Marina, and a beach, along with other luxury services. While the focus of these developments tends to be the rapidly growing expat community—Al Mouj hosts around 70 different nationalities--Omanis still represent the biggest group of residents, showcasing the large local interest for this luxury vacation-style lifestyle.

Another influential project in the country is the Muscat Hills Golf ITC, which was, in fact, the first green golf course to be built in Oman. The compound is composed of dispersed villas, apartments, and townhouses, which include pools and gardens of their own. A club house with a bar and a restaurant operates as a meeting place for the residents. Notably, the resort-like estate is centrally located and is just minutes from the airport.

Other projects, such as Dhofar's only ITC, named Hawana Salalah, have opted to follow concerns of sustainability and seamless integration with nature, in an eco-trend that seems to resonate with the concerns of young people both local and foreign.