HEADING EAST

Oman 2019 | TOURISM | FOCUS: MUSCAT: BUSINESS DESTINATION

An ambitious expansion to the Oman Conference and Exhibition Centre and the opening of Muscat International Airport are but two of several key developments driving an increase in business traffic to the Sultanate.

In the two years since its inauguration, the Oman Conference and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) has hosted nearly 300 events, the number of which grew an impressive 65% in 2018 alone. Spanning a vast array of commercial interests, OCEC is helping Oman seal its reputation as a leading regional business destination. Winter Village, which attracted 70,000 visitors in its second showing; Light Oman, the region's premier event for the lighting industry; the Tile and Stone Show; the Builders International Gathering; and the Interior Design and Furnishing Expo are but several of many events bringing industry-wide experts to the country for the third year in a row.

With Phase II completed, this will only be all the more true in 2019. Once completed, the OCEC will boast the Rose Theatre, a cultural and theatrical venue with more than 3,200 seats, along with four hotels and a commercial business park. To be sure, the success of the OCEC's expansion has been greatly bolstered by the opening in March 2018 of Muscat International Airport. Not only were international airport arrivals up 7% in 2018, but the total number of tourists rose a resounding 34%, from 470,000 in 2017 to 630,000 in 2018, according to Sheikh Aimen bin Ahmed Al Hosni, CEO of Oman Airports. The airport's new cargo facility, which has capacity for up to 380,000 tons, also opened in March and has helped boost cargo shipments entering Muscat. The city also saw an increase in transit passengers of 15%.

What's more, the opening of the new Duqm airport in September 2018, as well as the USD950-million expansion of the Salalah terminal, will ensure that this growth in business travelers is not restricted to the capital alone. The latter isn't alone in pulling out all the stops. The recent reopening of the Al Bustan Palace after 18 months of painstaking renovation and the launch of the Royal Opera House Muscat, one of the region's premier arts and cultural venues, have helped propel Oman to one of the Financial Times 'leading travel destinations for 2019.' Business travelers may find their stays profitable in more ways than one.