YEARNING FOR GREATNESS

Oman 2019 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

Oman Sail introduced sailing in the country and is well on track to realize its Olympic aspirations and Oman's adventure tourism potential.

David Graham
BIOGRAPHY
David Graham is CEO of Oman Sail, a national initiative established to contribute to the development of Oman and its people through the sport of sailing. Graham has more than 20 years of experience in the sports industry, and was previously the Managing Director of Laser Performance. He joined Oman Sail as CEO in 2009 and has since established a globally recognized brand that has brought some of the most prestigious sailing races to Oman and established national youth, women, and offshore sailing teams that have won multiple sailing medals and titles, including two World Records.

What are some of the latest developments for the company?

In terms of our overall business, we have made some impressive developments in the last 10 years. The three sections of our business, sport, tourism, and commerce, are doing well, and moving forward, we have clear plans for each. Our original plan was to reignite the country's maritime eminence and bring the Omani people into sport, tourism, and commerce. At present, we seek to solidify all our gains in these areas. Our Olympic aspirations are solid and have been a key goal since the beginning, and we are making impressive steps forward in this area. Mohammed Nabil Al Balushi became the first-ever sailor from Oman Sail to represent Oman at a Youth Olympic Games in the Men's Windsurfing Techno 293+ class at the event in Buenos Aires in October 2018. It takes time to develop a strong national team and system, but the youth programs are a key element of our strategy. When we started, we were introducing the country's youth to sailing for the first time, and now they are consistently winning. The Sultanate has a small population, but Omanis are consistently performing well against some of the largest nations in the region. Notably, schools are active in the youth programs, and sailing is part of the national curriculum.

What will the company accomplish over the next decade?

We want to compete in the Global Ocean Race, the Olympic Regattas, and we want our youth program to grow further; our strategy is to get as many people into the program as possible. On the commercial and business side, we have a wide range of projects. At present, about 30% of our income comes from the private sector, and we are constantly searching for new opportunities. We are hosting several events, such as marathons, to encourage Omanis to become active in sport and lead active lives. The marathon fits into both the sport box and the tourism box because it brings in foreign participants. Part of our strategy with marathons is to attract big names to the race. For example, world record marathon champion Paula Radcliffe is slated to be the ambassador of the eighth edition of the Al Mouj Muscat Marathon. A big name such as Radcliffe attracts participants and helps the marathon become a significant regional sporting event.

How does the Oman Sail's strategy fit into the Tanfeedh initiative's goals for tourism?

The Tanfeedh objectives relating to tourism are fairly diverse. There is a plethora of initiatives, and one of the initiatives we are working on to fit within Tanfeedh relates to sport and adventure tourism. Some people view it as niche, but adventure tourism is absolutely enormous and is one of the fastest-growing components of the tourism market. In real dollar terms, sports and adventure tourism is worth the same to New Zealand as oil and gas is to Oman. Oman is perfect for sailing, cycling, running, and triathlons. We have all the infrastructure for these sports; all we have to do is attract the athletes.

What will be the long-term economic impact of hosting international events?

The number of tourists focused on trekking and hiking is huge. If we you look at the economic impact of these tourists on various parts of the world, then we can begin to understand the impact it can have on Oman. We are promoting Oman in many different areas, and this will have a compounding effect on the country as a whole. We will conduct economic impact studies for the coming five years to determine exactly how many visitors return and their impact. We expect to see a large multiplier effect. All of the initiatives we are engaged in are for the long haul. By the time we host our second race, our aim is to have over 1,000 runners. Our job is to promote the country, and we have been dedicated to this task from the beginning.