Oman will break ground on a $175 million botanic garden project this month, in a bid to attract more tourists to the sultanate.
The project, at Al Khoudh in the capital Muscat, will be complete by the end of 2023, the government said.
“It will be one of the largest botanic gardens in the world,” Minister of Heritage and Tourism Salim Al Mahrouqi said on Sunday.
“It will present an opportunity for visitors to experience the flora and vegetation of Oman while learning about the agricultural heritage, rich cultural traditions and legendary hospitality of the country.”
The botanic garden will feature habitat gardens, a visitor centre, research and field study centres, a children's’ play area and a nature reserve, the minister added.
It will cover 423 hectares and tram cars will transport visitors to attractions. The minister did not say how much the venture will cost, but an official connected to the project told The National it was estimated to be around $175 million.
“It will be located in Al Khoudh in Muscat in an open space and in a very fertile area and away from the residential houses so we don’t disturb residents with traffic in and out of the site,” the official said.
Tourism experts say the gardens are part of the sultanate's plan to diversify visitor attractions.
Presently, Oman's tourism sector depends heavily on Salalah in the south – renowned during the monsoon season for its lush, green landscape and seasonal waterfalls.
“The botanic garden will be a green village that tourists looking for relaxation in an area full of flowers, man-made streams and natural wildlife like birds will enjoy to visit,” Rashid Al Khalasi, a tourism expert at the state-owned National Travel Operator, told The National.
“The aim is for it to be a second destination for tourists as an alternative to Salalah, to pull in more tourists to the capital Muscat.”
Oman received nearly 3.5 million tourists in 2019, and 60 per cent of those visited Salalah, according to figures from the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism.
But the pandemic reduced the number of tourists who visited Oman in 2020 to about 1.6 million. Numbers have fallen further in 2021.
“It will be less than half a million tourists [by the the end of] 2021,” Mr Khalas, said.
“Most of them are going to Salalah – and this is the reason why this project is important to diversifying tourism.”