Muscat: Saraya Bandar Jissah will be the first Integrated Tourism Complex (ITC) to be launched in seven years in Oman, contributing to the Sultanate's plans to become a tourist destination.
Jumeirah Group, the global hotel company and a member of Dubai Holding, recently signed the management agreement with Saraya Bandar Jissah. The Times of Oman met with the Saraya Bandar Jissah Chief Executive Officer, Sheikh Hamood bin Sultan Al Hosni.
Appointed as CEO in 2008 and the first member of staff in an ever expanding team, it is clear that he takes great pride in the development. "It's like bringing a child into the world where you become very protective and only want the best for the child. I am very passionate about our development and proud of the team assembled over the last six years.
"We might not have been in the public eye during this period but we have been busy getting the project to the stage we are at now. The market place has changed since the last ITC project was launched in 2007. We have completed all the design work for our project, gained the necessary approvals and are underway with construction."
The Ministry of Tourism introduced ITC projects with the focus on bringing international hotel operators to Oman plus allowing an investor from any nationality to purchase a 100 per cent freehold property inside the development.
With Saraya Bandar Jissah promoted as 'Oman's newest luxury address', located to the east of Muscat, the site is complemented by its two neighbours, the Al Bustan Palace Hotel and the Shangri-La Resort and Spa, boasting spectacular topography created by the Al Hajar Mountains merging with the Sea of Oman.
Sheikh Hamood said, "With nothing launched in a long time, there has been a stagnant period but signs are very encouraging, particularly over the last six months to a year.
"We believe the launch of a new project will give the local real estate market new impetus and as we are most likely to be the next ITC to be launched, we need to make sure it is done right. It is also important as the country is looking to move into tourism and increase its gross domestic product (GDP) through tourism, these projects create that platform."
Saraya Bandar Jissah is a partnership between the Government of Oman's tourism development and investment arm – Omran – and Saraya Oman.
"They are both fully committed and the project is currently funded from the equity contribution of the two shareholders with a total capital of OMR50 million, making it one of the largest tourism projects currently underway in Oman," said Sheikh Hamood.
"We have also worked very closely with the government. All the ministries have been hugely supportive of this project all the way through, allowing us to gain the necessary permits and approvals to progress as planned."
Sheikh Hamood added, "Many will be aware through the constant news updates released by the company that the project is making big strides since starting on site back in August 2012.
"NCC were the first contractors appointed and are nearing the end of their contract and more recently Carillion Alawi were awarded the infrastructure package with Atkins appointed for supervision services to the infrastructure.
"This, however, is only the start of the appointments with the first hotel contract awarded but not announced yet and the largest residential zone close to being awarded. We have also already tendered the second hotel, two further residential zones and the staff accommodation."
Saraya Bandar Jissah, which was recently awarded the Best Mixed-use Development in Oman, is spread over 2.2 square kilometres but will only develop 20 per cent of the land in order to maintain the natural beauty of the site.
Jumeirah Group was announced back in December as the operator of both the five star beachfront hotels.
Jumeirah Group currently operates 22 luxury hotels and serviced apartments, including 11 in the Gulf region, six in Europe and five in Asia. A further 15 hotels are now under development.
Sheikh Hamood explained, "Although Jumeirah are operating both the hotels, they are very different offerings.
"The first hotel which is under construction is a resort style hotel framed into the mountain to the east of the beach with all 206 keys capturing the spectacular sea views.
"We felt it was important to offer our guests unique offerings and, therefore, this hotel has secluded VIP villas within its own cove and private beach area. We have also taken the unusual step by giving our ballroom sea views with large glass doors allowing functions the opportunity to benefit from our location and beautiful beach.
"The second hotel is more boutique with only 110 keys, again all with sea views. This hotel is broken down into small clusters all located in three distinct levels on the cliff face. The design of it is very much in line with the history of the site and the history of Oman.
"Each level captures a common living style in Oman with the top level focused around jebel living (mountain). The middle tier focuses around the Bustan living (green) and the bottom level introduces Shat'ee living (beach). It's very much developed like an old Omani village. From the back of it, we see this old Omani village with stone-clad exterior but a glass frontage so the guests can enjoy the views."
The development also has a low density residential offering split into five zones offering very different properties.
"We are developing a luxury high end development, and therefore, we need to ensure the buyers are given spacious properties offering privacy and security. The properties on offer will be a mix of apartments, duplexes, townhouses, villas and our cliff top grand villas. Using the topography of the site, we have made sure that where possible, all the properties benefit from panoramic views," Sheikh Hamood added.
"We are also providing residents access to the recreational club in the heart of the development. The recreational club will deliver a very strong community feel as the club will include sporting facilities like gym, swimming pools, tennis court, and a multipurpose court.
"There will also be dedicated rooms for teenagers and younger children as well as a coffee shop, restaurant, banking facilities and convenience store."
Commenting on the marketing for the project, Sheikh Hamood said, "We're now at the stage where I believe it's time to go into the market place. We've just launched a new website.
"All our social media platforms are now in place so we're now starting to expose ourselves to the market. We've got a lot of marketing material in final stages of production so people can really see what this project has to offer.
"The whole concept of this $600 million project is to deliver confidence to the market, so we want to show the buyers that we are committed to delivering our promise. Therefore, from day one, the development will open with all the components put together."