Muscat: The Al Raid Group announced a $1 billion investment in Oman’s retail, leisure and tourism sectors over the next five years, with its shopping and leisure development ‘Al-Araimi Boulevard’ scheduled for completion this September. The Al Araimi Boulevard is being built in Al Khoudh and is expected to create 800 direct and 1,200 indirect jobs when it opens. Its grand opening will be followed by a ground breaking ceremony for the Al-Araimi Walk project, which is slated for completion in 2020.
Abdullah bin Ali Al Araimi, Chairman of Al Raid Group, said, “The Al-Araimi Walk will be the largest shopping, entertainment and tourism destination in the Sultanate with a value of OMR112 million and a total land area of 240,000 square metres.”
Al Araimi Walk, which will be the largest shopping mall in Oman, is the first outlet mall to be developed by Al Raid Group. The project will feature 264 stores, a ski park, an ice-skating ring, an indoor water park, a trampoline park, Oman’s first virtual reality complex in addition to a family entertainment centre.
Al Araimi Walk will be built in Barka’s Al Somhan area.
The Al-Araimi Walk, according to Al Raid’s Group Chairman, is being built in response to the directives of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. With a vision of boosting public-private partnerships, the shopping outlet promises to offer thousands of job opportunities to Omani youth and attracting investment. During a press conference in Azaiba, Al Araimi said that the development would create more jobs.
For one of the largest employers in the country, Oman’s retail sector occupies the lowest square feet per capita in the region, according to the Vice-Chairman of Al Raid Group.
“If you look at the retail sector, it is one of the largest employers in the country. It provides 180,000 jobs and 12% of those employed are Omanis,” said Raid Al Araimi.
However, he added, “In Oman, the number of retail square feet you have per capita is one of the lowest in the region. We have got 9 to 10 square feet per capita whereas the norm is 20-25.”
Al Araimi said the retail sector wasn’t strong as yet because Oman didn’t have enough malls of international standards.
“I think there hasn’t been enough development of international standard malls in Oman,” he said.
With a number of new malls springing up in the country, the sector could accommodate 54,000 job seekers. “There are almost 54,000 jobs that are available to be filled within the retail sector. So it is one of the largest employers and people have to look at retail as a career and not just an entry job. It allows for growth, opportunities and specialisation and that’s what we are trying to create,” he said.
Al Raid Group is actively working on two malls – Al Araimi Boulevard and Al Araimi Walk. Both malls have a number of unique attractions apart from premium F&B and shopping options to attract visitors and tourists. “When it comes to the entertainment concepts, the Al Araimi Walk will have a virtual reality centre, a trampoline park, snow village and ice skating zone,” he said.
The government was also actively pushing the retail sector to attract tourists as part of its economic diversification scheme. Al Araimi also said digitisation was going to be key. “Transformation is very important, digitisation is very important and new technologies are very important. Even when you look at e-commerce, it’s taking growth internationally but it didn’t force the absence of physical retail centres,” Al Araimi said.
“I think the online shopping culture is going to come to Oman sooner or later. And people have to incorporate applications and websites that provide the merchandise they sell in malls delivered to consumers,” he added.
Al Araimi Boulevard, in fact, was one of the first retailers to list the merchandise and prices for people to compare. “We would urge, recommend and support the retailers to have an e-commerce platform,” Al Araimi said.