The Sultanate’s strategic focus on iconic landmarks to fast-track tourism growth is a development watershed. The push, which is part of the attempt to diversify national economy under the Tanfeedh programme, will promote targeted tourist attractions across the nation. A document developed as part of Tanfeedh discussions stresses “iconic tourist attractions that are surrounded by restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, public amenities” that would encourage tourists to extend their stay and return for more of the experience. The authorities must be commended for developing a strategy that has innovation in its heart. Among the current developments, four – Mount Wellness Project, Port Sultan Qaboos Waterfront, Oman Riviera and Al Mouj – have been rightly picked as the initial iconic landmarks. An integrated approach with theme parks, amusement areas and shopping malls in the vicinity of such iconic attractions is indeed noteworthy. The idea is to extend average tourist stay in the Sultanate by one day in 2020, which is definitely reachable considering the investments planned in the sector. The Ministry of Tourism plans to spend nearly 750 million rials to develop iconic centres. The government plans to almost double the number of hotel rooms by 2020 to cater to the inflow expected as the nation changes its profile as a family and fun destination. The plan to develop convention and meetings tourism is also of serious import for the nation’s economic considering that a business tourism gives 26 rials’ return per rial invested as against mega events that raise 13 rials.
The diversity that the nation offers to different segments of travellers with a broad spectrum of interests has been appreciated the world over. In fact global agencies have appreciated that Sultanate’s growth strategy with emphasis on tourism along with manufacturing and logistics. A report of the prestigious World Travel and Tourism Council that the Sultanate’s tourism sector will grow at 6 per cent over the next decade helping to generate 164,000 jobs is a thumping approval of the priorities that the government has set. The contribution of the sector to the gross domestic product that is now 1.59 billion rials or 5.7 per cent of the GDP is expected to increase to 5.7 per cent or 3.02 billion rials. The sector has the potential to generate 7.5 per cent of all jobs in the country. This job generation aspect is critical to the Sultanate, which has highly skilled youth. The government has rightly understood that the Sultanate’s proximity to several high-growth economies is an important attribute that can be leveraged to boost economic growth. It must be appreciated that the government is actively pursuing a policy of maximising growth in such prime sectors. Earlier this year, the State Council recently decided to fine-tune laws to power tourism growth. Ahmed Bin Ali Al Meshaikhi, who heads the Culture, Media and Tourism Committee of the State Council, has said a revision of various laws and regulations governing the sector have been sought so that challenges to its advancement could be met. It must be appreciated that the panel suggests concrete steps to raise the involvement of national workforce in tourism. The global campaign of the Ministry of Tourism to promote the unique offerings of the Sultanate has been yielding results.