HOSPITALITY’S BIG CHEESE

Oman 2019 | TOURISM | FOCUS: MICE EVENTS

Oman's unique tourism offering is not lost on a business world overly familiar with traditional destinations, but that has exacting demands regarding quality and opportunity.

For 2017, sector data puts travel and tourism as a percentage of global GDP at 10.4%. In a well-travelled world, Oman is an exemplar, exploiting its originality; that combined with climate and sizeable infrastructure investment to sweeten the deal. Sector contribution to GDP is expected to grow by 5.9% per year to 8.9% of GDP by 2028 accordingly. Official data reveals that for 2017 local tourism investment reached USD707 million and is now set to climb 3.0% per year over the subsequent decade to USD997.3 million in 2028. In 2017, the total contribution of the tourism sector to employment was 6.6% of total employment at 140,000 jobs. The figure is anticipated to rise by 3.3% in 2018 to 144,500 jobs and by 3.2% per year to 199,000 jobs in 2028, making for 8.2% of total employment. And of this sum, business travel expenditure is forecast to grow by 4.4% per year to 2028.

An Indian Takeaway

In late 2018, Oman's Ministry of Tourism announced winning the title of Best International Destination for Adventure Tourism in the Travel+Leisure India & South Asia awards; India already plays a huge role in Oman's tourism universe, especially for those glitzy weddings the Indians do so well. Indians holding a current visa to the US, Canada, Australia, UK, Japan, or Schengen nations can purchase a tourist e-visa, available in three durations of 10 days, one month, and one year. Oman welcomed 173,833 Indian visitors from January to June 2018, marking 15% YoY growth and 31% growth since 2014.

Flying MICE

Such international accolades crown a major initiative by the Sultanate to maximize its hospitality sector. An initiative that has looked beyond the sun block and loud shirts to the business events universe, with massive investment in facilities and a policy of relaxed visas for visitors in evidence. Oman boasts excellent air connectivity in addition to its visa convenience, while the new Muscat International Airport provides state-of-the-art travel comfort a mere 4km from the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre (OCEC).

MICE on Show

The drive to accommodate the MICE sub-sector accelerated back in April of 2016 with Oman's participation in IMEX 2016, a leading international MICE sector event, then held in Frankfurt. That year, the Sultanate launched the Oman Convention Bureau, the go-to address for local MICE-related initiatives. This coincided with Oman's ninth five-year development and goes hand in hand with its economic roadmap, the 2040 Strategy. On May 16, OCEC launched its convention center in the latest addition to the MICE offering, rendering the country a business hub of distinction.
In MICE eat MICE world of highly familiar destinations, Oman is busy promoting the Arabian experience. The centre features two ballrooms for prestigious events, one being the nation's largest, as well as a 456 tiered-seat theater and 22 meeting rooms. The facility overall offers an event area of 48,632sqm and targets 270 events in its inaugural year. This came alongside the opening of the four-star Crowne Plaza, within the Madinat Al Irfan district. The five-star JW Marriot hotel will be the second of three hotels at the site, which also offers the familiar staples of a business park, retail areas, and prime residential property. Yet, while located at the commercial epicenter, OCEC offers views of a valley that is home to Oman's birdlife, giving visitors and residents alike immediate access to a nature reserve.

As 2018 drew to a close, two massive cruise vessels, the MSC Lirica and Horizon delivered over 3,500 tourists to Sultan Qaboos Port. Oman's credentials as a tourist destination are not in question. And now that hotels and facilities have been put in place, the corporate component of the tourism mechanism is in trim shape to swing into operation in the years to come. ✖