Confidence is running high in Oman, where their unfolding strategic plan to become a vibrant tourism destination is evidenced by the soon to open 493,794 square foot Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre (OCEC). And, with a cadre of tourism and economic development projects already underway, a workforce of talented, young professionals are pouring their national pride and passion into their country’s future plans. Sheikha Al Mugheiry is one of them. After completing her Masters Degree in Tourism and Travel, she returned home from Austria to become the International Business Development Manager for the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre.
I recently caught up with Sheikha to learn about more her country, their soon to open convention facility and how tourism is poised to expand the future of prosperity of Oman.
Q. What is the defining Oman experience?
A. Definitely the authentic culture and heritage, and speaking as a young Omani, I am proud to say the people themselves – everyone who visits always makes the comment that the people are so welcoming and friendly. Oman is an extraordinary country that proudly values its vibrant heritage and traditions while readily embracing the possibilities of the future. Sitting at the heart of east-west trade routes, this truly unique and ancient nation has an irresistible appeal thanks to its warm and hospitable personality and to its astounding diversity of natural beauty. Today, as a result of careful strategic planning, Oman has an enviable tourism infrastructure – hotels, roads, airports, ports – designed to meet the discerning requirements of the modern international visitor as they experience the authentic delights of this very special destination.
Q. What is the country doing to build upon its newly developing tourism industry?
A. With a new 25-year tourism strategy in place that aims to double Oman’s current 2.5 million annual international visitors by 2040, this sector is one of the most significant pillars of the country’s diversification plans. Preparing to accommodate increased numbers of tourists, 24 new hotels, from budget to six-star, have been planned and, in many cases, are already under construction. In fact, 2,000 new rooms are set to be added to the current stock by the end of 2016. On the OCEC Precinct itself, two hotels are nearing completion, the five-star JW Marriot and the four-star Crowne Plaza, with work on two further hotels and serviced apartments due to commence shortly.
The new Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre itself is changing the face of convention and business events in Oman. OCEC is owned and developed by Omran, the Oman Tourism Development Company. This landmark project, the centerpiece of Oman’s business development program, will establish the Sultanate as a major contender for regional and international business events, attracting over 200,000 visitors in its first year and in excess of 600,000 annually once fully operational.
Q. Do you have a particular geographic strategy in terms of business and tourism development?
A. There is no doubt that Europe, less than seven hours flying time from the capital Muscat, and headquarters for 58 percent of the world’s international associations, is a hugely important market for the OCEC, but the USA is also an extremely important target for us. Generally speaking, we are concentrating on markets that will deliver events that align with Vision 2040, Oman’s economic diversification blueprint.
Q. Share with me why the soon to open Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre will be an important tool in recruiting businesses and travelers?
A. While hosting major international and regional events has an immediate economic benefit with delegate expenditure on accommodation, travel, restaurants, entertainment and so on, there is, of course, the wider impact to consider too. These events showcase to investors not only Oman’s flourishing industries but also the considerable assets that underpin them – the country’s stability and peacefulness, economic and legal transparency, dynamic business environment, vibrant enterprise culture, ambitious and talented population. Given Oman’s reputation for academic excellence and leadership in research and innovation, these events provide tremendous opportunities for knowledge transfer, enriching all participants and leading to a myriad of potential collaborations.
Q. You have already booked some meetings into the new OCEC. Why did they select your new, and untested convention facility?
A. The reasons for choosing the OCEC are many and varied – from the venue’s fantastic and flexible facilities to the Sultanate’s expertise in particular sectors. We find convention organizers are also looking for genuinely authentic experiences, something Oman has in abundance. Many find Oman’s location, between east and west, less than seven hours from over half the world’s population suits them very well and others are attracted by its stability.
According to Judy Stenmark, CEO, International Osteoporosis Foundation, “Oman is a wonderful location to hold our biennial educational and research meeting for osteoporosis and related diseases in the region. By delivering the highest quality scientific content in a beautiful setting we hope to optimize the delegate experience.”
Q. Are you focused on specific market segments in terms of bringing meetings and conventions to the OCEC?
A. We are definitely prioritizing events that support sectors targeted in Vision 2040, including health, tourism, IT, transport and logistics, food, energy, manufacturing, fisheries and environment. These are areas in which Oman has expertise, experience, and great potential.
Q. What are the biggest advantages to meeting in Oman?
A. With its strong authentic identity and genuine charm, Oman has an offer that is quite distinct to other countries in the region. Oman stands out too for the incredible diversity of easily accessible experiences it offers - from dhow cruises, dolphin watching and diving trips, to mountain climbing, overnight desert camps, and 4WD wadi safaris. We have luxury shopping in air-conditioned malls and bartering in traditional souqs. We also have five ancient UNESCO World Heritage sites, along with music and dance at the Royal Opera House. There really is something for everyone here.
While the OCEC is new, Oman itself, the home of the Gulf’s first ever exhibition centre, has a well-established reputation for holding successful events of all kinds. Amongst the most popular are the spectacular month long Muscat Festival, which draws thousands of visitors every January, and Salalah’s Khareef Festival, celebrating its lush green monsoon season, is a must-visit for tourists. On top of this, the Sultanate is a popular sports events destination, hosting major competitions such as the Asian Beach Games, cycling’s Tour of Oman, football’s Gulf Cup, and recently, the sailing’s Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series.
Q. How is Omran helping the people and businesses of Oman prepare for tourist travel?
A. Established by the Government of Oman in 2005, Omran drives the investment, growth and development of the flourishing tourism sector in the Sultanate of Oman, creating new destinations and unique experiences that benefit the country’s social and economic progress. Its portfolio of projects, asset management expertise and investment experience embraces the unique aspects of Oman’s culture and heritage, while safeguarding the natural beauty of our country for the future generations.
Oman’s new developments and commitment to building a robust convention and tourism infrastructure have this country on the cusp of becoming the next international destination sensation. Left in the hands of young professionals like Sheikha, clearly, the wait won’t be long.
To discover more about meeting in Oman, contact:Brought to you by Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre
Sheikha Al Mugheiry
Business Development Manager at +968 2413 0771 or firstname.lastname@example.org