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Oman 2019 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

OCEC is highly committed to Oman's efforts to diversify its sources of income and contribute to the social and economic growth of the country.

Said Salim Al-Shanfari
BIOGRAPHY
Said Salim Al-Shanfari has rich experience working in leadership roles in the marketing and communications sectors across Oman and the region. In 2017, he successfully completed Oman’s National CEO Program. With his leadership skills and experience from the CEO program, Al-Shanfari aims to promote Oman and OCEC as a hub for regional and international conferences, exhibitions, live events, as well as showcasing the natural beauty and essence of Oman. Al-Shanfari brings with him a wealth of experience from his eight-year tenure in Ooredoo Oman as Director of Business Marketing and most recently as the General Manager of Marketing Communication and Performance at Omantel.

From which sectors of the economy does OCEC see the most demand for MICE events?

In terms of attracting international events to Oman, we have a strong presence in the medical sector and have been able to secure over 22 international and regional congresses. Some of the events that OCEC is looking forward to are the 2020 World Cancer Congress, the 2020 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Congress, SICOT 2019, and the World Hospital Congress 2019. Other sectors such as oil and gas also play a major role in bringing world-class events to the Sultanate. We successfully hosted the 2018 World Heavy Oil Congress and have secured it for the next three years.

What innovations within the MICE sector top OCEC's list?

Most of the newly built convention centers follow the trend of having a purpose-built precinct. We are one of the few following this trend on a global scale as it provides hassle-free experience for delegates. Our center was awarded LEED Gold certification from the US Green Building Council, which sets the standards for sustainable development, reflecting the future of Oman's growing tourism industry. The center demonstrates environmental stewardship and leadership in sustainable design and holds the highest LEED point score in the Sultanate. The design of the center ensures a flow of the meeting spaces and incorporates expansive concourse areas to accomodate large delegations with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking landscaped gardens and water features. The precinct will provide the necessary infrastructure to host successful international, regional, and local events for the enjoyment of delegates, visitors, and the local community. The precinct includes a JW Marriott Hotel linked to the convention center and the Crowne Plaza Hotel. A business park and a retail shopping mall, surrounded by a nature reserve, together with parklands and a wadi (valley) park, are also part of this precinct.

Considering its proximity, how is OCEC benefitting from the new airport?

Tourism, particularly business tourism, is expected to increase significantly in Oman. With the opening of the new Muscat International Airport, there is a steady increase in the amount of new international flights, which means more access to over half of the world's population.

How much growth is OCEC seeing as a result of the government's focus on developing the tourism sector?

The economic impact of OCEC cannot be measured solely within the confines of the facility; however, Oman Tourism Development Company's (Omran) significant investments in the business events sector means Oman can now provide more options for business travelers and act as a new hub for business events in the region. According to a study by Strategy, the OCEC project is expected to generate OMR295 million in local spending, create an additional 15,000-18,000 permanent jobs, and contribute OMR200-240 million to the national economy by 2030. At the center of Oman's business development program, OCEC will act as a catalyst for business travel in Oman.

How does OCEC, and more broadly Oman, differentiate itself from other venues for attracting and hosting events?

Global competition is fierce, as there has been tremendous growth in venues in recent years. The key to success is creating flexibility in both facilities and services that can respond to new demands. To that end, we have a purpose-built exhibition and a dedicated conference center with a variety of 55 spaces to choose from, including a 3,200-person theater. In authentic culture and history, Oman has so much to offer to conference and exhibition organizers, and as a result, we have already won 18 international and regional conferences with a total economic impact of OMR22.5 million.