Oman is seeking investors to develop a series of tourism projects, including a $5 billion scheme, as part of a strategy to triple visitors to the country by 2040 in a push to diversify its economy and create jobs for young nationals.
The sultanate will tap investors to finance a mixed-use tourism project in Salalah worth at least $5bn for the first phase, Maitha Al Mahrouqi, undersecretary of Oman's tourism ministry, told The National at the Arabian Travel Market exhibition in Dubai on Monday. The plan will be presented to investors by year-end, marking the first of 14 tourism destinations open to investment.
“In the fourth quarter of this year we will announce our plans for Salalah, one of the major projects where we create tourism clusters for our regions,” she said. “We are going to have an investment forum to attract local, regional and international investors.”
Tourism projects in Musandam, Dakhiliya and Muscat will be open to investors by the end of next year, followed by projects in Sharqiyah and Shamal al Batna in 2020, Ms Al Mahrouqi said.
The push is part of Oman’s a strategy to boost visitor numbers to 11.7 million from 3.3 million currently and create 500,000 jobs in tourism for Omanis by 2040. To do this, it selected 14 so-called tourism clusters across the country to develop as key attractions for tourists and promote internationally.
Oman has smaller oil reserves and government savings than its wealthier neighbours, making it vulnerable to the low crude prices that depressed growth across the Arabian Gulf region.
The sultanate aims to attract eight percent more tourists this year, up from the 3.3 million visitors in 2017 and boost the tourism sector’s contribution to GDP to an average of 3.2 percent compared to 2.8 percent last year, she said.
Investment in tourism reached $1bn last year from local and international investors ranging from sovereign wealth funds to private sector companies, she said.
With the opening of its new airport in Muscat last month, which has a capacity of 20 million passengers, Oman aims to attract more visitors from Eastern Europe and Asia, specifically India.
Oman is focusing on promoting itself as an adventure and sports tourism destination for “responsible” or eco-friendly travellers and families, Ms Al Mahrouqi said.
“We are not building a strategy to compete with our neighbours,” she said.