The Sultanate’s status in the region as a MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) destination is indeed robust. Still it is about to get further boost. The second phase of the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) is nearing completion. It is exciting that Minister of Commerce and Industry and Omran Chairman HE Dr Ali Bin Masoud Al Sunaidy along with CEO Peter Walichnowski and chief project officer Eng Said Al Qasmi visited the site receiving the final touches. The facility being developed by Omran as part of Madinat Al Irfan has already come to be noticed across the region with the opening of the first phase in October last year when the exhibition centre was thrown open to public. The excellent response that it received can be gauged from the fact it has already hosted 55 regional and international events. The bid to host the World Cancer Congress 2020 that it recently bagged is a morale booster to the OCEC. The second phase includes a state-of-the-art, 3,200-seat auditorium nearing completion. The authorities plan to shortly open for bookings the banquet hall that includes two large ballrooms with a 450-seat theatre, a series of meeting rooms and a grand food court that is in the final stages. There is reason for Al Qasmi to be excited about the upcoming opening which will add to the MICE capacity of the region in a big way. “We aim to provide a new and exciting option for business travellers – putting Oman on the map as a global MICE destination.” Al Qasmi is particularly happy about the prospect of OCEC contributing to the growth of the tourism sector. The four major hotels coming up in Madinat Al Irfan will boost the nation’s tourism capacity considerably. Of these, Crowne Plaza is on track for soft launch in October. The nearly 300 quality rooms that the property will add to the market promise to be a big boost. Another hotel project of repute JW Marriott Hotel that will have 304 rooms is set to open in June next year will add to the rising inventory of star-rated facilities. Two other hotels are in the planning phase.
As Walichnowski said, there is a lot of excitement in the air as the work on Madinat Al Irfan is progressing on schedule. The interest that the property offering 1.6m square metres for investment is generating across the globe is a matter of pride for the whole nation, as it is an indication of the Sultanate’s rising MICE tourism profile. Tourism is of course on the three major thrust areas of the nation’s economic diversification programme. The future of convention tourism in Oman is evident from the fact that OCEC is booked for business up to 2024 in the key October-December period. OCEC has chosen its partners with care and it shows in the excellence of the services available. Once the attached hotels and other leisure facilities open on the precincts, OCEC promises to be a place of international appeal for the world to come together and do business. That will also hasten the nation’s push for economic diversification. The OCEC facility will help to synergise the nation’s diverse tourism assets like cultural antiquity, natural assets, beaches, mountains and archaeological sites that have been attracting thousands of tourists.