Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

October 17 2014

Behind-The-Scenes: A Look At Building A Convention Center Outside The US

By David McMillin

Meeting professionals are always hearing about the latest convention center construction project in the US. As destinations work to attract big meetings business, the convention center landscape has grown increasingly competitive. However, the majority of those projects involve adding on to an existing convention center and updating the technology inside of it. Outside the US, though, many emerging markets are starting at Square 1 with convention centers.

One of those countries is Oman where contractor Carillion Alawi is overseeing the two-phase construction of the new Oman Convention & Exhibition Center. As the project continues and Omani officials prepare for the official opening in 2016, meeting professionals can look forward to a state-of-the-art building designed to meet the expectations of tomorrow’s attendees.

“Because Oman is starting from scratch, they have the opportunity to build the right way,” Michelle Crowley, Director, Global Development, PCMA, says. “They aren’t confined by the need to renovate or expand an existing building. The clean slate carries tremendous potential for the country as a convention destination.”

SEE ALSO: Debunking Myths About Meetings In The Middle East

Relying On External Expertise

To capitalize on that potential, the government of Oman set up a company to manage assets and investments in the tourism sector. The company, known as Omran, turned to AEG Ogden to operate the new center in 2011. Over the past three years, AEG Ogden has been working to establish Oman’s reputation as a new leader in the meetings industry with appearances at events such as EIBTM Barcelona, IMEX Frankfurt, GIBTM Abu Dhabi and AIME Melbourne.

As soft opening events in late 2015 approach, AEG Ogden recently handed Trevor McCartney, the former Director of Business Development at the Qatar National Convention Center, the reigns as the inaugural General Manager of the OCEC.

“The Oman Convention & Exhibition Center is the new kid on the global conventions block,” McCartney says.

Counting On A Country Committed To Tourism

While convention center projects in the US often encounter obstacles securing public financial support, the Omani government is dedicated to making sure the center is well-funded new kid on the block.

“The government recognizes that they won’t have oil forever, so they’re being very smart about diversifying their economy,” Crowley says. “They know meetings and business travel represent a huge opportunity for job creation.”

McCartney says AEG Ogden is working to ensure that convention center employees will be prepared for the opening.

“The people factor is a vital element to the success of any event,” McCartney says. “AEG Ogden is committed to the training, education and social development of the Omani people, so that every attendee experiences the exceptional Omani hospitality first-hand.”

SEE ALSO: OCEC In The Spotlight

Previewing The Convention Center

The service will be distinctly Omani, and the interior of the LEED-certified convention center will echo that authentic experience. Part of the center will feature a natural parkland environment with a 360-degree view of the Al Hajar Mountains, the Sea of Oman and the capital city of Muscat. When attendees aren’t taking in the landscape, they’ll be enjoying educational sessions in a 3,200-seat lyric-style tiered seat auditorium, 13 meeting rooms, two ballrooms and a VIP Pavilion.

Looking Outside The Center

While the development at the convention center is certainly cause for excitement in Oman, McCartney also points to what’s happening outside the walls of the building to highlight Oman’s promising future in the convention industry.

“By 2015, Oman is expected to offer 20,000 rooms as part of a government plan to grow the tourism sector to three percent of GDP,” McCartney says.

Room supply is increasing at a very impressive annual rate of 5.3 percent, and room occupancy is accelerating, too. In fact, the total number of guests at four- and five-star hotels increased by nearly 21 percent in the first half of 2014. That growth doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, either. McCartney says the Omani government forecasts spending on infrastructure to reach $56 billion by 2017 with major investments in transportation and hotel infrastructure.

Want to see what your colleagues have to say about the OCEC? Click here for perspectives from meeting planners who attended the first-ever PCMA Oman Advisory Summit.

This informative feature was brought to you by the Omran and the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre. As the official opening of the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre approaches, every meeting professional will be hearing more buzz about why their attendees will love Oman. Click here to learn more about why other meeting planners are already making site visits to Oman.

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