Her Excellency Maitha Al Mahrouqi, Minister of Tourism for Oman revealed that the room inventory in the Sultanate will rise from 12,000 currently to 20,000 by 2015, while airport capacity will treble both in Muscat and Salalah, reaching 12 million in the capital and three million in the southern city.
While creating jobs for Omanis is a priority, she said the ultimate aim as part of the Vision 2020 strategy was for the travel and tourism sector to contribute three per cent to GDP and beyond.
“One challenge is to change the perception of tourism as a career and to increase vocational training,” she said. “As well as the department for tourism training in Qaboos University and the Tourism College, we are looking to open a technical college in Salalah too.”
While Oman has already appointed overseas tourism representatives in 16 markets worldwide. These include the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia plus Australia and New Zealand, the minister said the domestic tourism was also a priority since this market was year-round and can be relied on even during the lean season.
“In areas where we do not have direct access with Oman Air, we are forging partnerships with regional airlines to bring in visitors via Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi – where we have joint visa arrangements - and are now aiming to bring the private sector together to package combinations,” she said.
At ATM, several hotel groups have announced new ventures in Oman, with Shaza signing an agreement to operate its first hotel in Salalah while Swiss-Belhotel reflagging the Beach Bay in Muscat in June and opening a new Swiss-Belexpress Muscat, while InterContinental is expanding with a new hotel at the Muscat Hills Golf resort.