Oman’s Luxury Hotel Market to Witness Significant Boost

With history dating back to antiquity, Muscat spells opulence. Popular luxury chains like W Hotel, Kempinski, Jumeirah have planned their entry in Muscat by end 2017, while 2016 witnessed launch of Grand Millennium and re-launch of Sheraton after renovation.

OMAN IS considered a market brimming with opportunities for the hospitality sector. Hotel room capacity is expected to increase by 6,000 rooms by 2020. Moreover, projects like the new Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre (OCEC) and the International airport are all pointed towards a growing hotel market. Upcoming properties at the OCEC include JW Marriot and Crowne Plaza. We speak to Lubaina Sheerazi, India Representative, Ministry of Tourism, Oman on more. Edited Excerpts:

BW Hotelier: With new brands coming in near future, can you please throw some light on the hotel inventory as of now?
Lubaina Sheerazi:
 While 2016 witnessed the launch of Grand Millennium and re-launch of Sheraton after renovation, Kempinski Hotel Muscat will open in Al Mouj by the fourth quarter of this year and the Jumeirah Group will operate a luxury resort in Muscat in 2017. The luxurious W hotel is scheduled to launch by early 2018. With, Oman’s flourishing tourism industry, we are positive that the upcoming brands will offer the tourists a taste of Omani hospitality.

BWH: What are the new areas that Oman tourism is looking to promote? Please tell us about the investment for 2017-2018?
Oman is not a mass but a niche destination. We have always promoted Oman as a destination meant for the ‘neo educated’ and well-travelled Indian. Our primary focus has been to promote the regions of Muscat, Jebel Shams, Nizwa, Sur, Wahiba Sands, Ras Al Jinz, etc as tourist spots in India. These regions cater well to Indian interests and are easily accessible by road. Musandan and Salalah are the upcoming regions and are slowly and steadily gaining popularity.

BWH: So what about the growth figures as compared to last years?
 In just three years, Oman received 2.05 million international travellers in 2014, 2.47 million visitors in 2015 – up by 17.7%, and finally reaching the 3.0 million mark in 2016. By 2040, the Sultanate hopes to reach a total of five million international travellers.

BWH: How are you planning to promote business visitors?
We plan to reach out to more trade and expand our reach in tier 2 cities. We will continue to work with trade in a focused manner and increase trainings with them to get more leisure traveller. We are also targeting destination wedding market and have collaborated with Wedding planners to promote the destination. With excellent air connectivity, world class hotels and easy availability of Indian food, Oman is a perfect destination to conduct corporate and business events. We are expecting an increase in MICE movement as Oman is an ideal short-haul destination for MICE. The Ministry of Tourism is fully committed towards enhancing the MICE sector in Oman to help the Sultanate achieve its potential to be a first class destination for this sector.

BWH: Any new attractions for tourists this year?
Indian travellers are looking for niche experiences like canyoning, scuba diving, golfing, selfdrive tours among others. To suit preferences of these travelers, Oman offers a plethora of adventure activities, from kayaking in crystal blue waters, snorkeling, scuba diving to exploring the wonderful coral reefs in the Omani oceans; one will be spoilt with options to choose from. One can also go whale watching, dolphin watching, explore numerous caves or have a blissful experience of dining and camping under the stars at Sharqiyah Sands. Different regions in Oman are popular for different activities. Muscat can be explored for dolphin watching, sailing, jetskiing; Daymaniyat Islands is famous for snorkelling and scuba diving, the Snake gorge is amazing for Canyoning; Masirah Island is an excellent place to go for kite surfing; Jabal Shams is famous for hiking and trekking trips; Salalah has some good places to go for bird watching while dune bashing, quad biking can be experienced in Sharqiyah Sands. Some of the best Souqs (local market) in the Middle East are in Oman. Mutrah Souq in Muscat is a labyrinth of shops selling colourful artifacts, handicrafts and souvenirs. The historical forts and castles of Oman are the country’s most striking cultural landmarks and there were over 500 forts stretched along the long coastline of Oman.

BWH: Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre opened last year. Tell us about this project?
The MICE tourism sector will receive a significant boost with the recent launch of the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre in Muscat. The second phase of the centre is scheduled to launch by the end of 2017. This centre will include state of the art theatres, conference rooms and four hotels with almost 1000 rooms along with major exhibition halls that can cater to tens of thousands of people at one time. The objective is to support the international and local organisations in hosting their events and cater to their requirements.

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