Tourism as a key economic accelerator
January 28, 2018 | 5:43 PM
by Mohammed Mahfoodh Al Ardhi Al Ardhi
Seafront Muttrah Corniche. A clear roadmap to place Oman as a top tourist destination in the coming years will serve as an excellent way forward for the nation, paving the way for the larger vision we are aiming to achieve over the next few decades.Photo -File

Most countries that have adopted socio-economic development policies and launched related projects have also invested time and money in accelerators designed to speed up the execution of these projects.

Accelerators are a series of programs and initiatives designed to stimulate desired change and help achieve results in a relatively short time span.

Some countries have likened their ability to flourish with their capacity to implement changes that meet the aspirations and dreams of their people, especially with regard to job creation, elimination of unemployment, raising standards of living, and reducing social inequalities.

For example, China, one of the world’s five super powers, launched the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative in 2013 and set clear goals that include enhancing the standards of living of people residing in the countries along the new global trade route. Malaysia for its part, announced the Vision 2020 that aims to place it among leading global nations. Closer to home, the UAE’s Vision 2021, Bahrain’s Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and Kuwait’s Vision 2035 have become familiar guidelines to measure national growth in these countries. Oman for its part, announced its very own Oman Vision 2040 in 2014, formulating it on the utilization of available resources to develop its economy and society.

It is indeed encouraging to witness nations across the world racing to achieve similar and integrated visions for economic growth, sustainability and an improved quality of life for their people.

Equally importantly, each country must leverage accelerators to implement visions and achieve goals. And, I believe that the accelerator with the greatest potential that we need to work towards developing in the next phase of growth is the tourism sector.

A sustainable economy is driven by factors such as production, technology and innovation. And, until we reach a juncture where we can freely invest in these sectors, we need to focus on sectors that are known to conventionally generate income, contribute to economic growth and achieve development. Therefore, tourism as a sector is crucially important to ensure growth in our short- to long-term future, not only for Oman but for all countries around the world. It is also important to bear in mind that tourism is not only an economic investment but also a social and cultural driver given its role in the preservation of a nation’s heritage, archaeological sites and the traditions of its people.

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) estimated in 2016 that tourism contributed about 10 per cent of the world's GDP and provides one out of every 10 job opportunities globally. The WTTC also noted that global tourist destinations hosted approximately 598 million international tourists in H1 2017, an increase of 36 million tourists over the same period in 2016.

These numbers clearly indicate the ample opportunity for growth in the sector.

A top-tier tourist destination owes much of its success to its location, natural beauty, heritage, the authenticity of its civilization, and to its hospitable people. We, in Oman, are blessed to enjoy all these elements in every single governorate. All we need to do now is raise the bar to invest in experiences for tourists and communicate our bouquet of offerings to the world.

Oman has valuable treasures that are waiting to be discovered and explored. The country needs a well-studied and effective promotional campaign that targets people across all economic backgrounds. In other words, tourism in Oman calls for a drive that showcases the uniqueness of Oman’s civilization, archeology and its culture.

For this campaign to achieve powerful results, we need non-traditional approaches. It is not enough to rely on printed materials and make speeches and studies that feature the country’s most alluring attractions. We must optimize digital platforms that align with the concept of tourism itself.

A clear roadmap to place Oman as a top tourist destination in the coming years will serve as an excellent way forward for the nation, paving the way for the larger vision we are aiming to achieve over the next few decades.

* The author is the Executive Chairman of Investcorp and an International Advisor to the Brookings Instituition. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.

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