THE RIGHT CHOICE

Oman 2019 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

Witnessing a steady rise in the number of tourists, Oman is building modern airports and modernizing old ones as part of its ambitious aviation strategy that ensures tourists have positive first experience.

Ahmed Bin Nasser Al Mahrizi
BIOGRAPHY
Ahmed Bin Nasser Hamad Al Mahrizi earned his degree in international relations from the Mohammed V University in Morocco in 1988 before beginning his career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the following 20-plus years, HE Al Mahrizi served as ambassador to countries including Algeria, Ghana, Kazakhstan, France, and Portugal. In addition, he has held Chairmanships and Board Memberships in numerous official bodies including the Salalah Free Zone Company, the Oman Investment Fund, and the Oman Tourism Development Company.

How is the new Muscat International Airport and improvements to Oman's other airports improving the Sultanate's tourism industry?

The new Muscat International Airport and the recently launched airport in Salalah will be the new aviation gateways for Oman. In addition, three regional airports have been built. Two of them, Duqm airport and Sohar airport, are in commercial operation. Oman has an ambitious aviation strategy, clearly manifested in these highly sophisticated infrastructure that ensures that tourists have positive first experience. We have seen a steady rise in the number of international tourists over the years. New international routes will allow more tourists to enjoy this extraordinary country. To that end, Oman's budget carrier, Salam Air, recently added Tbilisi and Baku to its network. Another new airport, Duqm airport, will serve the highly promising port city of Duqm. Airport improvements across the Sultanate have focused on implementing modern technology within contemporary Omani design, and the addition of world-class terminal amenities to significantly enhance the passenger experience and reflect the very best of Oman's renowned hospitality.

What changes or investments should Oman airlines make to facilitate more travel to and within Oman?

Oman Aviation Group, which is in charge of the development of the aviation sector, is working on various initiatives in close cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism. Projects like Airport City, Business City, and Logistics City are being looked at to boost the number of arrivals. Oman Air, the Sultanate's four-star Skytrax airline, continues to expand its route network and modernize its fleet of aircraft. The airline currently flies to 54 destinations around the world and continues to explore new markets for future destination opportunities. Recent successful route launches include Casablanca and Istanbul, while Maldives, Moscow, and Athens will be added in the short term. Within Oman, the airline continues to increase frequencies on popular routes—such as Muscat-Salalah—to facilitate air connectivity for both Omanis and international visitors seeking to explore beyond Muscat. Oman Air operates one of the youngest fleets of ultra-modern narrow- and wide-body aircraft, including Boeing 737 MAXs and Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Oman Aviation Group, a government holding tasked with empowering Oman's aviation sector and enabling its tourism and logistics sectors, is focused on numerous investment initiatives that aim to attract more tourism and investment to the Sultanate.

The National Tourism Strategy has designated 14 tourism clusters around Oman. What incentives or regulations have been created to encourage investments in these areas?

We are currently implementing our 2040 Tourism Strategy with international consultants using global best practices. A key component of this strategy is the notion of “clusters." The strategy will be using five planning concepts, namely: tourism sites and attractions, clusters, resorts, and touristic zones of national interests and itineraries. One of the most important objectives the Oman Tourism Strategy seeks to achieve is an increasing contribution of the sector to GDP, in conjunction with the sustainable development process currently taking place in other economic sectors. The Ministry of Tourism realizes the key role tourism can play in enhancing the standard of living of Omanis across the country. Importantly, the government has special investor incentive schemes for mega projects.

How does the ministry work in collaboration with other government institutions and the private sector to ensure its plans are in line with the market's needs?

The ministry works with a steering committee via Tanfeedh. This committee comprises undersecretaries of various ministries as well as senior management from the private sector. This allows the Ministry of Tourism to work closely with other government institutions and stakeholders.

How is the ministry planning to promote development of more affordable hotels and tourism options?

The Ministry of Tourism has revamped licensing procedures to make it simple and speedy for interested players to consider Oman as an investment destination. A one-stop shop is now fully functional at the ministry, making application procedures hassle-free for all hotel categories.