The integrated roadside tourist facilities that the Sultanate is planning will prove a major boost for tourism. This is because the nation’s excellent road network is encouraging thousands to drive to key tourist destinations. The fun of the ride is attracting people from all parts of the Sultanate and from other nations of the region. The Sultanate’s world-class road network extends to other countries and there are many people passionate about such rejuvenating rides. The Ministry of Tourism is planning to launch such stations across the nation this year. The ministry has proposed 17 such stations, each one complete with refuelling station, hotel, restaurant, retail outlets, tourism information centre, rest rooms, children’s play areas and prayer rooms. The idea is to make people feel at home even while they are far from home on a road trip. It is good to see that the ministry has already done some ground work for the project by identifying land at convenient spots. Those who have driven to Salalah from Muscat will know how important such facilities are. They help the travellers, especially drivers, relax and get refreshed. It is particularly apt that the first such centres will be coming up on Adam-Thumrait road and Batinah Expressway. Private players have been enthusiastic about getting involved in the projects. The large-scale participation of the private sector in the tourism sector augurs well for the nation’s tourism industry, which is looking for massive infrastructure investment for capacity building.
The Sultanate’s long-term economic strategy is to tap the inherent strengths to raise growth profile. That is why the economic diversification programme is hinged on the vital sectors of manufacturing, logistics and tourism. The nation’s geographical dividend of being located in a strategically important region gives the strategy focused on these sectors high success potential. An indication of the huge potential associated with stress on tourism is the investments flowing into the nation. There are several five-star hotel projects on the anvil aimed at tapping into the hospitality sector boom. The capacity expansion in the hospitality sector is coming at the right time with a steady increase in tourist arrivals. Last year more than 3 million tourists visited the nation marking a stout 16 per cent increase over the previous year. Cruise tourist arrivals also recorded a sharp jump by 47 per cent to 217, 153. These developments show the government’s tourism push is right on the track with the process of making master plans for projects in different parts of the Sultanate going full steam ahead. Projects for upgrading the tourism infrastructure in Musandam, Masirah, Nizwa and Jebel Shams are in an advanced stage, as Amira Al Lawati, Director General of Planning and Follow-up, said recently. These master plans were conceived as part of the government’s push for tourism under the economic diversification programme. The master plans are expected to identify and develop the unique offering of each area. The diversity that the nation offers to different segments of travellers with a broad spectrum of interests is highly appreciated the world over.