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Twin engines helping to boost Oman's economy

Tourism and logistics are part of the Sultanate's strategy to take the country to greater heights.

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"Ports are a mainstay of the logistics sector, and the Sultanate's port network consists of four main facilities - the Sultan Qaboos Port (above), Sohar Port, Salalah Port, and Duqm Port," says the The Ministry of Information.

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Oman's golden sand dunes make the oldest independent state in Arab world a unique winter destination.

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Oman is in a strategic position with good traffic.

OMAN'S golden sand dunes and expansive deserts make the oldest independent state in the Arab world a unique winter destination. Strong support from the tourism sector has made the winter tourist season - which starts from October to end-April - the country's most popular season.

Temperatures can reach up to 45 degrees Celsius in warmer seasons, but the balmy weather starts to dip as October approaches, enticing tourists to 3,165-km long coasts, mountains and plains that are best enjoyed in the cooler months.

Saleh bin Ali Al Khaifi, Director of Tourism Promotion and Marketing at the Ministry of Tourism, tells the Times of Oman that "the intensification of the promotional drive" for the winter season raised profitability for companies, hotels and small- and medium-sized enterprises.

"It has also resulted in an increase in the arrival of tourists, leading to rise in tourism revenues," the director adds.

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By the end of 2018, the number of hotel establishments in Oman was 412, with a total of 22,182 rooms.

The Ministry of Information says that in 2018 and 2019, 55 new hotel projects - ranging from one- to five-star facilities - will be completed. Furthermore, four camping sites are scheduled to be opened by 2019. The expansion of facilities for tourism is meant to deal with the increasing number of tourists to Oman.

In 2017, 3.3 million visitors visited the Sultanate in a 12-month period, up 3.5 per cent in 2016, according to the Ministry of Information. It says: "These positive developments are a direct outcome of the Sultanate's economic diversification policies, in which strong new support is coming from the tourism sector."

Oman's tourism strategy is to develop 14 tourist resort complexes throughout the Sultanate, and it is currently in Phase 1, which began in 2016 and is slated to be completed by 2020.

Zakariya Al Saadi, Oman's Consul-General to Singapore, tells The Business Times: "Tourism is one element of diversification, a policy that Oman's government is enhancing."

Key highlights for visitors planning a trip to Oman include its annual Muscat Festival, which recognises the heritage and unique identity of Omani society.

The festival features creative talent including poets and writers, among others, who will showcase their art through a series of lectures, literary seminars, poetry recitals and other cultural events.

2020's edition will be a greater extravaganza, as the Muscat Municipality announced in May that private-sector companies will be able to invest in and organise the Muscat Festival 2020.

The festival starts on Jan 16 and runs until Feb 15, with events being held in Naseem Park, Al Amerat Park and the Al Madina Auditorium in Qurum.

The Sultanate is serious about becoming a global logistics hub, having set up government holding company Oman Global Logistics Group (ASYAD) in June 2016.

The group oversees constituent companies of the logistics sector that the government is a direct owner or shareholder of. This includes road, rail and sea transport firms, and ports, among others.

Oman is in a strategic position with good traffic, with access to the Sea of Oman, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean.

As part of its logistics strategy, known as SOLS 2040 or Sultanate of Oman Logistics Strategy 2040, Oman has been working to develop its ports to attract investment.

The Ministry of Information notes: "Ports are a mainstay of the logistics sector, and the Sultanate's port network consists of four main facilities - the Sultan Qaboos Port, Sohar Port, Salalah Port and Duqm Port".

Enterprise Singapore has noted that the 4,500-ha Sohar Port and Freezone, which has more than US$26 billion in investments, provide business opportunities for Singapore companies. Firms can look for such opportunities in four main clusters - logistics, metals, petrochemicals and the Food Zone.

The Food Zone is meant to be the region's first dedicated agro bulk terminal, with integrated facilities for food manufacturing, packaging and food logistics.

The Duqm port is also of interest to Singapore companies, as it is near international shipping lanes, with access to Asian and African markets, says the Ministry of Information. The multi-purpose port, with a 7-km long breakwater, 18-m port basin and 19-m entrance channel, is "a major income-generating project for the national economy, contributing strongly to the goal of diversification", the Ministry adds.

There is also an element of tourism in the port network, seen in the Sultan Qaboos Port. Under the plan, the area is set to become a centre for tourist and cultural activities, with the aim of attracting investment in the tourism and real estate sectors.

The Oman Tourism Development Company, known as Omran, will implement the overall development plan to convert the Sultan Qaboos Port into a tourist port, while an ASYAD-affiliated port company will manage operations.

The Sultan Qaboos Port district is set to be a lively destination, featuring hotels and glitzy malls, with a touch of culture in the form of art galleries and museums.

The Ministry of Information says: "Under the supervision of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, SOLS is operating on the premise that the logistics sector will, by 2040, be contributing some 14 billion Omani rial (S$49.5 billion) to gross domestic product."