Oman has unveiled a £7 billion tourism drive as it endeavours to quadruple its number of visitors to 12 million by 2020.
Dubbed “Vision 2020”, the ambitious programme includes the construction of ten new resorts across the country over the next five years. Projects in the pipeline include the Wave, a £1.7 billion beachfront development, Norman Foster’s Blue City complex, the five-star Muscat Hills Golf & Country Club, as well as a 6,000-seat convention centre.
The sultanate has already opened a number of luxury resorts, including the Shangri-La Barr La Jissah in 2006.
One of the principle projects now underway is a major upgrade and expansion of the country’s principal air gateway, Muscat International Airport. The airport last year handled more than 3.2 million international visitor arrivals.
Plans for the include a new terminal building, 32 air bridges and an additional runway while the existing runway will be upgraded to handle the Airbus A380 superjumbo.
New regional airports are also to be built at Adam, Duqm, Haima, Ras al Hadd, Shaleem and Sohar.
Work is also nearing completion on the venue for 2010 Asian Beach Games which will take place at Wudum Al Sahil near Muscat in December next year. Following the event the games complex is intended to be used as a major resort complex.
The ministry’s aspirations appear unhindered by the tourism slowdown in neighbouring Dubai, and are being heavily supported by both the Oman government and private sector.
And despite the new developments, a spokesman for the ministry said that protecting the country’s environment and conserving its cultural heritage were key priorities.
The sultanate has also relaxed its entry regulations, which now allow travellers from 60 countries to obtain visas at the airport.