Exclusive interview: Ahmed Bin Nasser Bin Hamed Al Mahrizi, Minister of Tourism, Oman
The Sultanate of Oman surprises by its variety of tourism assets. But just what does the nation offer? We put the question to Ahmed Bin Nasser Bin Hamed Al Mahrizi, the Sultanate’s Minister of Tourism.
Oman offers awe-inspiring natural landscapes, a unique diversity of flora and fauna, charming traditional villages, unique forts and castles, archaeological treasures of world-class quality and intangible traditions, all contributing to creating a unique Omani experience. These elements and more is used to attract tourists to Oman. Oman is highlighting its incredible coastline, desserts, wadis, mountains, flora and fauna, tradition and values, symbols, heritage, cities and villages. We see the pride and prosperity of Omani people growing as they welcome visitors to their land and to their culture and we see the Omani spirit and culture growing stronger and more confident in the process. We see world travellers experiencing Arabia in new ways. We see bridges of understanding and tolerance growing stronger in the world. Oman will move you. It will unveil history you never knew before and open your eyes and hearts to culture, art, civilisation and traditions that will expand your horizons.
Oman is blessed to have almost all the natural ingredients to make it an ideal tourist destination.
How is Oman’s tourist infrastructure evolving?
The infrastructure of the tourism sector in the Sultanate of Oman, along with its facilities, services and products, is growing from year to year. Oman is blessed to have almost all the natural ingredients to make it an ideal tourist destination. World class accommodation for different categories and standards are available in all governorates of the Sultanate of Oman. By the end of the year 2019, around 492 hotel establishments were operational with 24,531 rooms. 47 new hotel establishments are expected to open in 2020, adding 2,159 more rooms to the existing capacity. There are also facilities which support specialised sectors (like MICE). These facilities have the most modern and high-quality designs, such as the newly-built Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre which will allow to accommodate large exhibitions, conferences and international meetings.
What kinds of tourism are growing the fastest?
The Sultanate of Oman has always been interested in attracting tourism from markets with responsible tourist groups whose spending is higher, and from which travellers come throughout the year.
Oman will move you; it will unveil history you never knew before and open your eyes and hearts to culture, art, civilisation and traditions that will expand your horizons.
We consider Europe an important source market for Oman. Tourists from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Scandinavia, India, and the Gulf countries flock to the Sultanate in large numbers. With an aim to further diversify source markets for arriving in Oman, we are also targeting the United States, Russia and China for the future. We already observed growth in the number of Russian and Chinese tourists last year, thanks to the implementation of “visa on arrival” policy for these nationalities. Another contributing factor is the availability of daily non-stop flights that connect these destinations with Oman, in addition to the opening of a tourism representative office in Russia in 2019. Another office is set to open in China in 2020.
How are you working to develop the business tourism sector in Oman?
The Oman Convention Bureau within the Ministry of Tourism has adopted several strategic measures with an aim to attract more business travellers to the Sultanate. In line with this, we are working towards connecting the sector’s local partners, bringing them together to streamline and unify marketing efforts, simplify procedures, and provide them with more incentives and offers that will help attract business tourism.
We are working towards ensuring the best utilisation of the Sultanate’s memberships in several specialised international and regional federations and associations concerned with the business tourism sector. In this way, we can take advantage of the information that is available to us as members with regard to opportunities to host these events and conferences. Furthermore, we also promote the Sultanate’s unique tourism capabilities in these meetings, which are attended by important global organisations specialising in business tourism, such as ICCA, PCMA, Site and UFI.
Photo: Ahmed Bin Nasser Bin Hamed Al Mahrizi, Minister of Tourism, Sultanate of Oman
OMAN: WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT?
To experience Oman is to go on a journey. While many places in Oman alone justify a longer stay, the greatest experiences share something of the nomadic nature of the Bedouin, of the caravan. Oman is a land of natural contrasts and great diversity. In shaping the ideal experiences for our discerning travellers, they are guided on a series of journeys throughout the Sultanate.
Over the next years, Oman’s government plans to further develop a tourism infrastructure capable of delivering “memorable, rich and varied experiences, drawing on passion, know-how, nature and culture”. There are countless authentic, delightful Omani places to stay, each with their own unique sense of place.
Oman aims to attract discerning travellers; independent tourists with a high level of education and income, who share a taste for culture and who are interested in exploring new destinations. To attract those travellers, Oman’s proposal is based on a blend of natural and cultural attractions with a touch of authenticity that is unique in the region – a set of well-established routes and innovative experiences that truly differentiate Oman as a destination.