As part of the focus on ‘Unlocking Investment Opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa’ at AHIC 2010, the Country Panel will look at the direction of tourism and hotel investment in the Sultanate of Oman, as well as featuring government representatives from Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom of Morocco.
Oman has one of the fastest growing tourism sectors in the world, but the focus on development, following the creation of the new Ministry of Tourism in 2004, has been on sustainable growth leveraging the Sultanate’s rich cultural heritage.
According to a March 2009 report by the World Travel and Tourism Council, the travel and tourism sector is set to achieve annualised growth of 7.8% per annum, in real terms, over the next ten years, to reach almost $7 billion by 2019.
Despite a broader trend of dampened international travel demand during the economic downturn, Oman saw a year on year increase of 5.8% in international passenger arrivals in 2009, exceeding 2.5 million. The Ministry of Tourism is aiming to attract 12 million visitors per year by 2020.
This is partly driven by significant government into tourism infrastructure. The first phase of the expansion and modernisation of Muscat International Airport has been launched, which will increase handling capacity to 12 million passengers by 2014, and three subsequent phases will ultimately boost capacity to 48 million passengers by 2050. Between 2005 and 2009, international arrivals grew by 13% per annum, to reach 1.3 million passengers last year. There are also plans for new airports and expansion projects in other key tourist destinations, including the development of Salalah Airport which will lead to a capacity of 1 million passengers by 2013.
The airport expansion projects have been carried out alongside the transition of Oman Air into an international carrier; the launch of non-stop services to Munich, Frankfurt and Paris in the last quarter of 2009 led to a 77.7% increase in passenger arrivals from Germany and 84.1% from France.
The new expanded Port Sultan Qaboos passenger cruise ship terminal, in Muscat, was also inaugurated in February 2010; activity grew rapidly in 2009 with a 22% year on year increase in cruise ship vessels, totalling 185 vessels, and passenger arrivals are expected to exceed 350,000 in 2010.
To date, hotel investment has principally been focused on high-end, luxury brands, and whilst the pipeline of projects remains strong, there is also an increasing number of mid-market brands entering the Sultanate.
During the Country Forum panel, HE Dr. Rajiha will highlight the clear vision for growth that has been developed by the Ministry of Tourism, as well as the key projects that are currently in place to create fresh investment opportunities in the Sultanate. The conference will also feature ‘Ask the Experts’ roundtable sessions, which will feature an opportunity to get practical advice on Navigating the Market in Oman.
HE Dr. Rajiha Abdul Ameer Ali commented at her participation at AHIC this year saying:
“I cannot emphasise the importance of this conference enough, given the difficulties created by the global economic downturn, and for the tourism industry in particular. The theme of this year’s conference is extremely timely, as there is an urgent and profound need for exploring ways, means and incentives to open up investment opportunities in the hotel sector in the Middle East and North Africa rRegion. Therefore, taking into consideration the large number of renowned and world class hoteliers who are expected to participate in the conference, I am optimistic that a number of deals might be arrived at during the event.
My participation in the event through The Country Forum will avail me the opportunity to address a key audience on the investment opportunities in the Sultanate’s tourism sector and highlight the conducive investment climate and safe and stable economy enjoyed by Oman. The doors are open for investors from overseas and from the Arab region if they are looking for strong and rewarding investment opportunities.”
Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events which co-organises AHIC, said:
“Oman has succeeded over recent years in re-branding itself as a high end leisure destination, thanks to a clear international marketing strategy by the Ministry of Tourism, significant investment in key infrastructure projects by the government and a competitive operational environment. As the market matures, new opportunities are emerging and we are delighted that HE Dr. Rajiha Abdul Ameer Ali will be attending AHIC to help increase understanding of how Oman’s hotel and tourism sector will continue to evolve.”