WORLD-CLASS EVENTS VENUE

Oman 2020 | TOURISM & RETAIL | INTERVIEW

As a future-proof venue, OCEC has the ability to provide a customizable space and seamlessly adopt new technologies.

Said Salim Said Al Shanfari
BIOGRAPHY

Said Salim Al-Shanfari is the CEO of OCEC. He has years of 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 as general manager of marketing communication and performance at Omantel.

What were the main highlights for the MICE sector in 2019, and what should the market expect in 2020?
2019 saw the creation of OCEC as one scalable structure hosting employees and operations from AEG Ogden and Oman International Exhibition Center. We worked in strong collaboration with OMRAN and the Ministry of Tourism, bringing many international events to the Sultanate, welcoming international associations, government delegations, private-sector events, and over 50 embassies. 2019 was also a milestone year for OCEC with the opening of the Madinat Al Irfan Theatre, which marked the completion of the entire OCEC precinct. In 2020, we will continue to drive our efforts in strengthening OCEC's global position as a leading events and business tourism destination. We will also improve our industry relationships with international associations to develop business, attract new events, and expand Oman's business events offerings. Our new multipurpose Madinat Al Irfan Theatre venue has proved to be a key asset in our strategy. The venue boasts state-of-the-art technology as well as fully customizable options. It has the capacity to host live shows, international congresses, graduations, and large-scale corporate events. Throughout 2020, we expect to receive 11 international conferences and secure more events for the following years.

What is required on a national level to exploit the potential of the MICE industry?
The MICE industry is one of the fastest growing markets in the global tourism industry. This is a particularly important opportunity for OCEC and for tourism in Oman to leverage. The MICE industry has phenomenal potential for economic contribution and for generating millions in indirect spending. With a world-class events venue, and the priceless addition of Oman's landscape and welcoming culture, the Sultanate is in a unique position to offer the world a valuable and coveted MICE destination. It is important to partner with other industry stakeholders, such as airlines, hotels, and ministries, to develop an integrated, united approach for the tourism sector. It's also important to collaborate and build cross-sector capacities.

How does Oman balance showcasing its traditional culture and being innovative when it comes to technology and MICE events?
Oman's rich heritage and welcoming culture are key components of our business development. We are a peaceful nation with religious and political stability, and an absolutely breathtaking landscape—all of which add great value to Oman as a tourism destination, whether for business or leisure. These components are part and parcel of OCEC's offerings and are woven into our operational culture and our services at all times. Oman's culture and tradition complement OCEC's operations. We are a nation of family gatherings and warm hospitality and our venue approaches innovation and technology with that in mind. With state-of-the-art AV technology and a future-proof venue ready to advance, our services constantly seek to provide more personal and authentic experiences for guests while showcasing our beautiful country. We also collaborate with local SMEs on technological and innovative projects, such as digitalization, data generation through racking systems, heat maps, ticketing platforms, and interactive applications.

What major trends are shaping the MICE industry?
The global events industry is becoming more tech-centric and innovative; therefore, it is essential to provide a technologically advanced venue with innovative solutions. At OCEC, we are always digitalizing processes to provide faster, more efficient services and to more thoroughly monitor quality control. Our website provides a 360-degree virtual tour of the entire venue and 3D maps of the rooms, allowing international clients to fully experience the venue ahead of time. There is also an increasing demand for customization in events, specifically in customization of the actual event experience. For example, event organizers may look to use VR or AR tools to provide attendees with a more immersive experience. As a future-proof venue, OCEC has the ability to provide a customizable space and seamlessly adopt new technologies. We continue to add services that offer more opportunities for customization and authentic event experiences.