Muscat: Around 12,000 direct and 7,000 indirect jobs are expected to be created after the completion of an OMR500 million project that will transform the Port Sultan Qaboos into the region’s primary waterfront destination.
The project consists of four zones and the first phase is expected to be complete in 2019, Minister of Transport and Communications Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Futaisi, said during a media briefing held at the ministry on Monday. The first zone of the tourism-based mixed-use project will shape the waterfront’s heart and will consist of a fisherman wharf, a fish souq, a five-star marina hotel, a four-star family hotel, and a hotel operated by branded residential apartments and starter apartments for first time buyers.
Destination shopping, waterside restaurants and cafes, boutiques, offices, entertainment and cultural facilities, as well as super yacht and leisure boat marina will also be featured in the first zone.
Half of the total investment amount will be allocated for the development of the first phase, the minister said.
The total built-up area of the project will be around 450,000 square metres, and the project will include six hotels, residential units and many other components.
One more hotel, which belongs to the Muscat Municipality, may be added later, Al Futaisi said.
As for the components of the project, Dr Al Futaisi said that it would include “6” hotels of five, four and three-star that would provide 1,500 hotel rooms, 65 apartments, 219 family residential units and other buildings, according to the ONA.
A project specific “Waterfront Development and Operations Company” will be established for the implementation of the project, which is expected to be complete in 2027.
The minister expressed hope that the company will be registered in three months.
The project, which will generate revenues and profits starting from 2022.
According to James Wilson, consultant to the ministry, 51 per cent of the waterfront company will be owned by the Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran), and 49 per cent of the company will be sold by Omran to the private sector pension funds.
The development will have an ITC (integrated tourism complex) status, said Wilson, who was appointed as the new chief executive officer of Omran in a press release issued after the media briefing.
Wilson described the waterfront project as the largest construction project in Muscat after the airport project, saying that 12,000 direct jobs and 7,000 indirect jobs will be created after the completion of the project.
Asked about the design of the project, Wilson said, “Atkins was the original designer. We are now going to invite new designers in the local and international markets.”
According to him, the concept design is ready and now there will be six months of detailed designing.
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Asked as to when work would start on the project, Wilson said, “Basically, there is land improvement work that will start within three months. (Work on) the main building and structure hopefully (will start) by July 1 this year.”
He further stated that the majority of the waterfront will be open to the public and 70 per cent of the customers and visitors are expected to be Omanis.
Asked as to how many tourists are expected to visit the waterfront, Wilson said, “It is difficult to estimate. Obviously, it depends on what happens with the rest of the tourism industry.”
Commenting on the number of units, he said there will be a mixture of units for rent and sale and Omran will decide the proportion.
“In total, there are about 1,100 units, but a lot of them will be rented out, and a lot of them will be operated by the hotel’s (management),” he explained.
The project returns on equity invested will be around 15 per cent.
He also highlighted the importance of the participation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at all levels.
The minister also said it will become clear later as to how many construction workers will be needed for the implementation of the project.
The destination shopping experience in the first zone will be Omani style arabesque, featuring natural stone corridors, high archways, subdued lighting and arabesque decors.
Alleyways will be lined with various retail outlets, an eclectic mix of authentic handicrafts, jewellery, fashion wear, perfumes, carpets, furnishings, sports items, books, dining, a department store, several internationally known flagship stores, as well as unique children’s edutainment and the convenience of modern times, from groceries to currency exchange.
Zone 2, which is the resort zone, will be comprised of an upscale five-star resort hotel, a four-star resort hotel, conference and banquet facility, a world-class wellness spa and residences, cafes and shops, beach clubs and residences, sports, tennis and leisure clubs, children’s village, clusters of elegant hotel branded townhouses and apartments.
Zone 3, the cruise zone, will feature upmarket design focused on retail experience, an upscale boutique hotel and hotel-operated branded residential apartments.
The components of Zone 4 (Hay Al Mina) will include an economy/budget hotel, a first time buyers’ starter homes, as well as public facilities, including local convenience shops, a football field and a clubhouse.
Expressions of interest have been received from the Mandarin Oriental, Hyatt, the Viceroy, the Hilton, the Taj, the Banyan Tree, Chedi and Four Seasons to manage the hotels on the waterfront.