Muscat: Oman’s new airport terminal will help speed up the country’s efforts towards diversifying its economy away from oil, according to experts in the Sultanate.
With the new Muscat International Airport terminal set to open today, there is a strongly-held belief among tourism, education and investment experts that key areas of economic expansion, as highlighted in the Tanfeedh directives for economic diversification, could receive a boost due to increased travel capabilities to and from Oman.
“This new state-of-the-art airport will represent Oman as a greater destination. People passing through will want to drop by Muscat a second time because of their first impression,” said Firas Rashid, director of sales and marketing for Anantara Jabal Akhdar.
“They will then want to spend a few nights in Oman. In addition, the new flights added by Oman Air are evidence to the new capacity that will be able to provide more arrivals into the country. This will also improve the ability to cater to more destinations and accommodate more flights from the GCC, the Middle East and Europe, so they can get approvals for more flights with other international carriers. With the new airport facilities and the speed of handling aircraft, more flights by Lufthansa, British Airways, KLM, Swiss Airlines and many others will enable increasing the number of passengers to Muscat International Airport,” said Rashid.
Dr Mary Ann Roberta, director of marketing and development at Al Nahda Hotels and Resorts, added: “I guess everyone is looking forward to this new airport. Those who have never seen the country will see all of Oman showcased there, and that will bring them back to the country because you cannot see all of Oman in just one visit.”
“Tourists will want to experience every part they see at the airport, and this will also ease things such as visa and luggage handling to allow for the smooth flow of traffic,” she added. “There is a big knock-on effect of this. All of us have noticed there are a lot of hotels coming up, from your five-star offerings to simpler bed-and-breakfast stays, so I think everyone is cashing in on what the new airport will bring. With the influx of more tourists coming in, I think Oman’s airport has come at the right time,” she stated.
Jasim Al Balushi, deputy head of training and professional development at the Caledonian College of Engineering, feels this would also encourage more students to take up engineering and architecture as careers. “I feel that if the authorities and the architects who designed this new airport go to schools and colleges to tell students how they built the airport, how they designed it, how they organised its construction, it would really inspire students to take up architecture and engineering in the future because they will also want to contribute such buildings to Oman,” said Al Balushi.
“Today’s engineers are not yesterday’s engineers,” added Al Balushi. “The techniques now used for construction are very different and they keep evolving, so if the students are taught of the technology that was used to build the new airport, they will also know how it can be used. Caledonian College, as an engineering institution, would also be very interested in learning about this, because this will help us to actively contribute to the economy,” Al Balushi added.
Anchan CK, an investment adviser in Oman, said the airport was expected to boost the country’s tourism and hospitality sectors.
“It is an important infrastructure acting as an engine for Oman’s economic growth, with the readiness of other added infrastructure such as excellent roads, ports, free zones, hotels and above all, readiness of young Omanis to absorb various key positions,” he said.
“It’s a gateway to investors and investment in the country, helping businesses trade their goods and services around the world,” added CK. “New routes launched from Muscat this year by Oman Air and SalamAir alone include Dubai, Guangzhou, Jeddah, Karachi, Kuala Lumpur, Medina and Nairobi, while frequencies have been increased on a number of routes that include Hyderabad, Jakarta and Mumbai.
“Passenger numbers in Oman are expected to rise 40% by 2019, because it is quiet, safe, secure and remains neutral. Oman has mountains, as well as deserts, beaches, historical and cultural attractions, which makes it a little different to its neighbours and a tourist attraction in its own right,” said CK.