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IN line with the growth of Oman's tourism market, a spate of new hotel developments is also taking place.
The luxury hotels market was given a significant boost this year as major international hotel chains opened their first or new properties in the Sultanate.
Some 2,000 new hotel rooms are expected to open this year, and among hotel operators entering Oman for the first time is the Anantara Group, which opened two five-star resorts, one in the mountains of Jebel Akhdar and the other in the south of the country at Salalah, in the middle of this year.
Others include the Kempinski and Fairmont hotels near the Almouj golf course and at the Wave waterfront development in Muscat as well as a refurbished Sheraton Hotel in the capital's central business district.
Meanwhile, other developments in the capital city of Muscat include the Sultanate's first W and Westin hotel properties, near the Intercontinental Hotel, while a Louis Vuitton property is also planned. On the outskirts of the city, in a secluded bay at Qantab, the Saraya Bandar Jissah project is under construction as well.
Adding to hotel capacity in the popular Dhofar governate in the south of the country, the new Al Fanar Hotel and Residences have also recently opened. Meanwhile, Anantara's Al Baleed Resort Salalah is the first luxury villa resort on the south coast.
Analysts estimate that by 2020 the number of hotel rooms in Oman will be more than 20,000, giving a major boost to the country's ambitious tourism growth strategy. This year the Sultanate started the implementation of Oman Tourism Strategy (2016-2020) which aims to provide 500,000 jobs and increase the volume of expected investments to around 19 billion Omani riyals. The strategy also aims to raise the tourism sector's contribution to GDP by 10 per cent by the year 2040, besides developing the local economy and SMEs.
The tourism strategy focuses on making the Sultanate one of the most visited tourism designations by 2040 by targeting 11 million international tourists and local visitors per annum. It also targets the utilisation of 14 tourist gathering spots such as forts, castles, heritage attractions, nature reserves, Bedouin settlements, coastal lands, deserts of graded colours, the Sindbad home, relics from the iron age and bronze age, wadis, springs, mountain villages, modern Omani villages built to fancy ancient houses, the Empty Quarter desert, the frankincense route and the wildlife prairies of Dhofar.
With the tourism industry in Oman seen growing at a rapid rate, with an 18 per cent growth in visitor numbers last year, there is a need to ensure that there is a sufficient supply of quality hotel rooms.
Indeed, the current spate of new hotel openings, ongoing construction and future developments demonstrates investors' confidence in Oman as a growing global tourist destination.
Among the tourism segments Oman wants to attract is the MICE segment. Muscat has seen growth in this market and this is anticipated to grow even faster with the opening of the new Oman Convention and Exhibition centre earlier this year.
Yet another market Oman hopes to grow is bleisure tourism, which links business travel with private vacations. For example, at top beach hotels near Muscat, business and leisure can complement each other. The convention and exhibition centre is only 10 minutes from the airport and everything is so nearby that in between meetings one can go shopping in the souks before enjoying a concert at the Royal Opera House.