Muscat: The incentives and conferences tourism industry is shaping up to be one of the most promising sectors in the Sultanate, having been given high priority in the Oman Tourism Strategy 2040.
The Sultanate is preparing itself to be the first choice for incentives tourism and conferences in the region, because of its positive effect on the tourism sector in particular and on the national economy in general.
Khalid bin Al Waleed Al Zadjali, Director of Oman Convention Bureau, said: "The incentives and conferences tourism sector includes four segments: meetings, incentives, exhibitions and conferences.
"In terms of meetings, some institutions or companies at the international or regional level hold meetings of their boards of directors or meetings of employees or shareholders or regional managers at a particular destination, which is a new culture for us, but it exists."
As far as incentives tourism are concerned, there are many organisations or companies which motivate their employees who have worked to achieve certain objectives of these organisations during a particularly period. These employees and their families get a tourism package as an incentive. This can be in individual or group form.
These programmes can also be designed for some customers such as companies which offer tours to their customers or invite them to attend a new product launch as an incentive for these customers.
The third segment of the incentives and conferences tourism sector is exhibitions tourism, as this is not related to exhibitions held locally, but rather regional and international exhibitions for which people travel, not to participate but to benefit from the products and services offered by these exhibitions.
The fourth segment is conferences tourism. When we mention conference tourism, we do not mean regular conferences organised by the government or a private body, but those organised by international organisations such as conferences organised at the medical or industrial sector level.
Khalid bin Al Waleed Al Zadjali said there was a mechanism to attract such conferences. This was evident, for example, from Oman’s success in being host of the International Medical Conference for Atherosclerosis to be held in 2024 as the first country in the Middle East.
The Oman Society for Atherosclerosis tried for this. The Oman Convention Bureau supported the society and helped in preparing the file which competed with 3 other files to grab the opportunity to host this international medical conference.
"The importance of incentive and conferences tourism is not due to its size in the tourism sector, but rather to the revenues expected from it. The revenues of other tourism products is weaker than this as the number of its visitors is higher.
For example, when a person takes a tourism journey on individual initiative and on his or her own expense, it would mean economic spending in tourism either in hotels, food and transport. But on the contrary, if it is organised by some agency in this situation, the spending on tourism would be higher.
In view of the importance of incentives and conferences tourism , it was seen as necessary to have a body working to organise this sector and develop coordination with the relevant authorities. This is why Oman Convention Bureau was formed on March 20, 2016.
Khalid bin Al Waleed Al Zadjali said that the bureau has three main roles. The first role is to organise the sector, especially since it is different from other tourism products as it is related to many organisations such as the Royal Oman Police, associations and ministries such as the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, for example, which regulate the exhibitions sector. The work of the bureau is to play as a link between them and coordinate between various organisations.
For example, if a particular company chooses the Sultanate as a destination to launch a new product, for example a new model of a car, this requires coordination with the Royal Oman Police to give car number plates, customs procedures and more.
There are also some private sector organisations that contact the bureau to inquire about some of the work and how to do it.
Al Zadjali said that since its establishment, the Oman Convention Bureau has experienced positive cooperation from various organisations which value the importance of this tourism product and its benefits to the national economy. All these organisations cooperate with this bureau in the public interest.
The second role of the Oman Convention Bureau is to develop the sector through training programmes. Two training programmes were held with international institutions to explain the importance of this sector to a number of private sector establishments. Similarly, Oman Medical Association was also contacted to explain it about the work of the bureau.
The bureau also encourages Non-Governmental Organisations to bring international conferences to Oman and cooperate with tourism companies to develop their programmes for the incentives and conferences sector.
The third role of the Oman Convention Bureau is to market the sector. The marketing mechanism of the incentives and conferences tourists is different from the marketing of any other products. Most of the targets of its marketing campaigns are institutions and organizations abroad or those who have offices in the Sultanate.
At present, the Oman Convention Bureau is focussing on specific markets. In addition to the Gulf and European markets, namely Britain, France and Germany, it is also focussing on Indian market as it is also good for incentives tourism.
Al Zadjali said that the promotional process was carried out through a number of channels. There are also cooperation with the Oman Convention and Exhibition Center to attract international conferences. An Oman Team has been formed in cooperation with various organisations related to attracting conference.
The promotion is also carried out through cooperation with some international companies specialised in organising and attracting conferences. Such companies also have teams which can find international sponsors for events. The bureau is currently cooperating with two international companies.
The Oman Convention Bureau has contributed to attracting five international conferences since its establishment two and a half years ago. It has also attracted many incentive tourism groups.
The Director of the Oman Convention Bureau said that the incentives and conferences tourism sector has a promising future in the Sultanate. What it is expected to achieve in the near future would be remarkable. This is as a result of concerted efforts being made by the stakeholders, infrastructure and by providing more services.