The Sultanate is targeting five million international visitors by 2040 compared to 1.5 million today.

Oman has unveiled ambitious targets for tourism growth over the next three decades. By 2020, the country should receive two million international visitors and by 2040, the Sultanate hopes to reach a total of five million international travellers. This forecast might in fact be conservative. In just three years’ time, the Sultanate almost gained an additional million travellers, growing from 2.05 million foreign travellers in 2014 to 2.47 million visitors in 2015 – up by 17.7%, finally reaching last year the 3.0 million mark. Oman’s Minister of Tourism, Ahmed bin Nasser al Mehrzi describes the growth as “an excellent performance”.

Last year, the Minister and Oman’s government launched their “Oman Tourism Strategy” covering the year 2016 to 2040. By 2040, with five million international tourists (this excludes one-day visitors from neighbouring UAE), tourism would generate over 6% of the Sultanate’s annual GDP and provide employment for 500,000 people, of which 75% would be Omani. The Government is looking to turn the destination into a model of sustainable tourism for the entire Gulf region. They are also targeting foreign investors, particularly from the Middle East, the UK and the USA.

In an effort to make Oman economy less reliant on the gas and oil industry, a think-thank is working on developing new products in tourism, including cruise tourism and iconic tourism projects, as well as favouring the construction of hotels and resorts as well as themed attractions.

The Ministry of Tourism’s strategic plan has identified regions which will be developed in “clusters” to highlight the uniqueness of Oman’s “tourism experience” in the Gulf area. Oman already offers a widely differing image to that of its neighbours. The Sultanate has for years been actively promoting its culture, heritage and natural environment, which are assets for adventure tourism. This is the opposite to Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Qatar’s tourism, which have built their reputations on spectacular infrastructure as well as iconic buildings and attractions.

Oman will highlight various areas such as the unique coastal area of Musandam; the Hajar Mountains; the Frankincense Trail in Salalah; Cosmopolitan culture in Muscat and of course soft adventure in Oman’s deserts. Each area will offer a blend of accommodation fitting into all kinds of budgets, culinary offering, transportation and unique experiences.

According to Salim Al Mamari, Director General of Tourism Promotion, “The announcement of the 2040 tourism strategy for Oman provides us with a clearly defined and structured road map to ensure that tourism becomes one of the most important economic pillars for the country’s future”.

“Omani hospitality is legendary and our new cluster concept will build on that and also helps to create tens of thousands of new jobs for Omani nationals in particular – and therefore boost the overall economic prosperity of the country”, he highlighted.

Meanwhile, authorities are accelerating the development of transport and tourism infrastructure. Last October, the first phase of Oman’s Convention and Exhibition Centre opened its doors to the public. Located near the Muscat International Airport, the convention and exhibition centre is part of Oman’s new district, the Madinat Al Irfan Urban Development.


oman-arrivals(Source: Oman National Statistics)

The convention centre itself can accommodate more than 10,000 people has two-tiered auditoriums with a total seating capacity of more than 3,600. The exhibition halls spread over 22,000 sqm of column-free space, and can also be divided into five separate halls. A

Construction for phase II is in full swing and will include once completed a business park, a mall and at least three hotels in five-, four- and three-star categories.

Another major project is the expansion of the airport with a new terminal designed to accommodate 12 million passengers in its first phase with the possibility to be expanded to accommodate 48 million passengers in the long term. The air terminal is due to open in the weeks to come.

Barka district is also being turned into a premium destination with a plan for a mega theme park, an interactive Science and Technology Edutainment Centre as well as an Equestrian Centre.

Article by Luc Citrinot