Muscat: As Duqm continues to take steps to become the heartbeat of Oman’s non-oil future, authorities are finding new ways to provide increased connectivity to those who wish to visit the fast-growing city.
Low-budget airline SalamAir could soon be the latest carrier to provide flights to Duqm, which is located on the coast of the Al Wusta Governorate, with the shortest road journey from Muscat of 536 kilometres taking a little more than five and a half hours.
Negotiations are currently underway between the airline and SEZAD, the Special Economic Zone Authority of Duqm, which oversees the development and progress of the city, to set up flights between Muscat and Duqm.
An official from SEZAD said: “The authority is currently negotiating to add flights to Duqm using SalamAir. These are still in negotiation but we are hopeful.”
He added that currently, the transport options available to those travelling between Muscat and Duqm include flights from Oman Air, the country’s national carrier, and road transport provided by Mwasalat, the national transport agency. The same was confirmed by SalamAir, with an airline official stating, “The negotiations regarding transportation to the special economic zone are currently ongoing.”
It is anticipated that Duqm will become the heart and lungs of Oman’s non-oil future and is key to its Tanfeedh programmes for economic expansion, which involve stepping away from the traditional oil and gas-based sources of income and tapping into other areas of high-growth potential. Five areas, namely energy and mining, agriculture and fisheries, transport and logistics, tourism and manufacturing have been highlighted, with Duqm at the centre of these plans.
An agreement between SEZAD and Chinese company Wanfang will see roughly see $10.7 billion (OMR 4.1 billion) in investment projects at the Chinese Industrial Park project in Duqm. 19 pacts have been signed with both Omani and foreign investors during the first quarter of 2019. These include the establishment of a factory for fish packaging and canning, in addition to other projects such as in the industrial, tourism, and service sectors, as well as residential commercial projects.
The total area of land given to investors from January to May 2019 is approximately 1.2 million square metres.
Investors from 20 different countries have so far invested in Duqm. Commenting on how the proposed SalamAir route would improve connectivity to Duqm, Ramanuj Venkatesh, a financial analyst in Oman said, “Duqm as a business hub is still nascent, but given that a lot of industries, processing and manufacturing plants are being set up, SalamAir’s new route will definitely provide more ease and convenience. If someone is coming to Duqm for a meeting, for example, this offers an alternative option for people to fly to and from Duqm.
“Oman’s future economy is targeting many of the regions outside Muscat, and given that tourism is also going to boost Oman’s economy in the future, more flights enable tourists to save time and provide convenience. SalamAir is known to be a low-cost airline, so this allows for more affordable travel to other places such as Duqm and Salalah. These are the areas that are being targeted for growth in the economy. More flights to Duqm will help in the long-run.”
Currently, Oman Air operates about 15 flights a week between Muscat and Duqm, which are one hour and 15-minutes in duration,. In addition, Mwasalat launched its bus route between Muscat and Duqm on 25 November 2016. The daily bus service departs from Azaiba at 6:40 am, before stopping at Muscat International Airport, Burj Al Sahwa, Fanja Mosque and Izki.
It stops at Sinaw Souq at around 9:20 am, before departing a half-hour later. The bus arrives in Mahut in Al Wusta at noon, before making its first stop in Duqm at 1:45 pm and its second stop at 2 pm. The return journey sees the bus depart Duqm at 6:30 am and arrive in Azaiba at 1:40 pm. The Muscat-Duqm-Muscat trip costs travellers OMR 5 for a single ticket and OMR 9.5 for a return.
At the time of the launch, a statement from Mwasalat said, “The company also urges all, especially Omani citizens, to use public transport due to its economic, environmental and social value. The economic significance is noticeably manifested in reducing traffic congestion. The launch of the new route comes as a result of Mwasalat’s desire to stimulate traffic to and from the Duqm area, in order to provide a safe and comfortable transport service for travellers.”
Mwasalat added: “It results in lowering the overall operational cost of the transport sector. Furthermore, it reduces the number of injuries and fatalities resulting from traffic accidents.”