SUCCESSFUL DELEGATION

Oman 2019 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

Transferring a slew of projects from the Ministry of Tourism has helped Omran become the biggest developer of hotels in Oman, the benefits of which are evident in communities across the Sultanate.

Peter Walichnowski
BIOGRAPHY
Peter Walichnowski joined Omran as CEO in 2017. He has over 35 years of experience in international real estate development, investment, and corporate management across Australia, the UK, North Asia, and the Middle East. Just in the Middle East, Walichnowski has 14 years of experience in holding CEO positions with large property companies including Majid Al Futtaim Properties. Before moving to the Middle East, he was CEO of Lend Lease Europe and Executive Director at Land Securities PLC, the UK’s largest listed property group. He graduated with a degree in architecture and has completed post graduate programs at IMD and Harvard Business School.

What is the goal of transferring projects from the Ministry of Tourism to Omran?

Omran was established in 2005 as the government's executive arm responsible for developing and operating tourism related infrastructure and projects that support the objectives of the 2040 Tourism Strategy. Omran executes its mandate in two ways: receiving the transfer of existing tourism related assets from ministries such as the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Heritage and Culture, and Ministry of Finance, and managing and enhancing those assets to maximize value for the government, the tourism sector, and the local communities; and developing new projects on government-owned land either by itself or in partnership with other investors. Omran has made significant progress on both fronts. For example, it has received several existing hotels from the Ministry of Tourism and is now asset managing those and also a number of tourist and heritage destinations such as Nizwa Fort, Harat Al Bilad, and Hoota Cave. With respect to new projects, Omran has successfully delivered the Oman Exhibition and Convention Centre and two new hotels at its new Madinat Al Irfan master-planned community. Also in 2018, Omran entered into two development partnerships with regional investors DAMAC and Majid Al Futtaim to develop two large mixed-use tourism communities, being the redevelopment of Sultan Qaboos Port and Madinat Al Irfan West.

How does the Ministry of Tourism work in partnership with Omran?

The ministry produced the 2040 Tourism Strategy, which we use as our reference point. The ministry sits on the Omran Board and our corporate KPIs are aligned with the 2040 Strategy. Our management works closely with its counterparts at the ministry and there are a number of working groups addressing specific needs and objectives. There are also joint working groups within the Tanfeedh initiative, for example, there is a group focusing on enhancing facilities for domestic tourism.

Which sub-sectors of tourism development are most important to Omran's strategy?

Omran is the biggest owner and developer of hotels in Oman, so our hospitality business is extremely important to both us and the tourism sector. Also, we have six investment partnerships across the country developing integrated tourism complexes (ITCs) on large pieces of land. These projects are important because they bring in a significant amount of FDI, create new opportunities for Omani SMEs, employ Omanis, and bring economic and social benefits to the surrounding communities.

What is Omran's plan for developing projects that target the middle-income segment?

Since our hospitality portfolio includes three- to five-star hotels across the country, we are already diversified across all income segments. We work with all the large international hotel operators but we also have developed our own in-house brand called Atana. Our Atana hotels are smaller and offer a more local authentic Omani experience in the three- and four-star categories. For example, we recently received two small hotels from the Ministry of Tourism near Sur and Salalah, which we are turning into Atana branded offers. We are also working to develop “integrated service centers" along major road networks that combine petrol stations with convenience shops and motel-style accommodation.

What is your outlook for the tourism sector in the next five years?

All indications and KPIs confirm that tourism in Oman will continue to grow over the next five years and beyond. The government has made significant investment in tourism infrastructure over the last years with the opening of two international airports, the Oman Exhibition and Convention Centre as well as infrastructure for several ITC projects across the country. The number of four- and five-star hotel rooms in the country has doubled, and there have been an equal number of developments for new cultural and heritage attractions like the Royal Opera House. The government has put down the right foundations to allow both public and private sectors to build a sustainable and growing tourism industry that will deliver the objectives of the 2040 Strategy, especially in creating employment and SME opportunities across the Sultanate.