Sultanate eyes public–private partnerships to develop tourism-related projects
By Yasmine Saleh, Thomson Reuters Projects News
Oman is aiming to raise $15 billion to invest in its tourism sector by the end of the decade, a top Omani official said adding that the government is hoping that 76 percent of the sum will be generated from the private sector.
“We are keen to explore the PPPs [public-private partnerships] as an effective approach to sustainable development and we have seen many successes of projects in this area. Oman’s tourism sector is strongly backed by natural, historical and cultural assets which we believe can deliver the expected revenue by investors. We will be looking into soft investments, empirical marketing of touristic destinations, infrastructure and utilities as well as accommodation and resorts,” Salem Adi Al Mamari, the director general of the Tourism Promotions department at Oman Ministry of Tourism, told Zawya in an email interview.
Al Mamari said the government’s investments will be put into infrastructure projects such as building and renovating roads and ports, along with other essential facilities.
“However, for the Oman Tourism Strategy 2040 to be highly successful, it needs $50 billion to be allocated and the total public spending will only be 12 percent of the total cost and the balance will be generated through public-private partnerships (PPPs) with local and international investors,” he added.
Oman, like other countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, is working to boost its tourism revenue in a bid to diversify its economy and make up for the financial shortfall caused by the sharp fall in oil prices since 2014. Saudi Arabia is the world’s top exporter of oil.
Late May, the Sultanate of Oman announced the launch of a new partnership with Holiday Factory, a UAE-based travel website, to promote the country’s tourism portfolio.
Projects in progress
The Omani official outlined a number of initiatives the Sultanate is focusing on to reach its target with regards to tourism:
• “Encouraging people in the rural areas to produce handicrafts that are most popular to tourists.
• “Looking to increase touring guide businesses after the Ministry of Commerce and Industry announced last year the streamlining of business license approvals.
• “Good road networks to reach special tourism spots ideal for snorkeling, beach camping, water surfing and diving.
• “Companies have been capitalising on our beaches… We have been receiving key interests to develop deluxe cottages in beach areas such as Sur, Duqm, Qurayat, Sifah and Salalah. The beach resorts will pull in tourists in water sports and leisure.
• “There is also a growing interest among rural communities to develop the community tourism concept, given Oman’s rich natural heritage with sceneries, mountainsides and local culture offering a relaxing new experience to visitors.
• “Plans are underway to further support this initiative through setting up of special SME [small and medium-sized enterprises] fund that will help small businesses to establish their trades and give better value to tourists.”
The Omani Ministry of Housing, in coordination with the Ministry of Tourism, has allotted 33 areas to be used for tourism-related projects, the Muscat Daily newspaper reported in 2016.
Al Mamari said the country is moving ahead with these projects. “The plan is positively moving ahead, with some of the key areas for land development specifically for the tourism sector… identified as tourism clusters in five Governorates. This has been the result of a careful study to ensure these areas will truly benefit the tourism industry, including various adventure products with regulations being drafted to ensure sustainability, including the setting up of world-class marketing and convention bureau,” Al Mamari said.