Oman tourism: Leading luxury hotel players keen on OMR500 million Muttrah port revamp

Oman Saturday 16/January/2016 15:48 PM
By: Times News Service
Oman tourism: Leading luxury hotel players keen on OMR500 million Muttrah port revamp

Muscat: Some of the biggest names in the hotel industry are interested in managing one of the seven iconic hotels of the Mina Sultan Qaboos Waterfront Project.
Emaar group’s The Address, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Hyatt, Viceroy Hotels and Resorts, Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, Banyan Tree Luxury Hotels and Resorts, Chedi and Four Seasons have shown interest in developing one of the seven iconic hotels coming up at the Mina Sultan Qaboos Waterfront Project, said Omran, the group given the task of developing tourism in Oman.
Omran has boosted resources to establish a dedicated investor relations task force to field additional interest from private sector investors for the Mina Sultan Qaboos Waterfront Project and is also set to establish a new company to develop the waterfront project, 51 per cent of which is owned by Omran, and the remaining 49 per cent by pension and investment funds, together with private sector investors.
Recurring returns
“In this era of low interest rates, and low returns on more traditional investments, investors are looking for new markets and avenues to provide healthy and secure sustainable and recurring returns,” Salah Al Ghazali, chief investment officer at Omran, said.
“Following the recent announcement of the project, we’ve been very heartened by the strong expressions of interest shown by prominent local investors. By taking a position in the waterfront development, investors clearly understand the attractive and enduring returns on offer with this state backed project. Our priority is to offer opportunities to local investors, followed by the regional and international investment community,” he added.
The project, an OMR500 million tourism-based mixed-use waterfront destination, will be developed over a 101-hectare site in the Sultan Qaboos Port, which will boost the tourism sector, provide sustainable employment for citizens and set new standards for authentic waterfront destinations in the region.
“This really is a project of national significance, and will be considered as one of the prime visitor destinations in the region when phase one opens by 2020 ahead of the World Expo in Dubai in 2020. Expo Dubai is expected to deliver an additional 25 million visitors to Dubai and Omran is planning its marketing and project delivery to ensure its readiness for this influx of international tourism to the region. The international hotel operators have clearly taken notice, and we are pleased to be talking with some of the leading names in the industry to operate the iconic waterfront hotels,” he said.
“The development will maintain the heritage and authenticity of the destination while adding modern components to completely reinvigorate the Muttrah Corniche. The project, in essence, is developed for local and global audiences, with all the uniquely Omani heritage and hospitality elements firmly incorporated,” he added.
The waterfront destination will be developed over four phases, with construction of phase one beginning in mid-2016 and its completion expected in 2020.
Phase one will include a number of entertainment and lifestyle attractions that will generate significant footfall and make the waterfront a day-long visitor experience.
Entertainment facilities
Attractions will include leisure and entertainment facilities, such as an SME Incubator-Arts, crafts and organic farmers market (Emporium), a tourism visitor’s centre, boutique and destination shopping, restaurants and cafes, a marine heritage visitor centre featuring the tall ship Shabab Oman, Oman’s aquarium and an extensive children’s entertainment village.
The SME Incubator-Arts, crafts and organic farmers market (Emporium) is being modelled after the successful retail incubator “Watershed,” located at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.
Phase one also includes a Muttrah fisherman’s wharf, a fish souq (market), a five-star marina hotel with a yacht club and marina, a four-star family hotel, hotel-operated residential apartments, starter apartments for first time home buyers, with extensive parking and park and ride locations.
A key objective for delivering phase one of the waterfront development in 2020 is to also capitalise on the major global events happening throughout the region in 2020. These events will generate an influx of visitors to the GCC region, which is expected to be a busy time for tourism and hospitality operators in Oman.
Highlighting the vision for the new development, Zoltan Kali, chief strategy officer at Omran, said, “The development plays an important role in the overall strategy of Omran focused on creating urban communities and tourism destinations. The concept is focused on catering to domestic and international tourism alike, while it is primarily designed to become a hub for the community by adding new recreational and leisure activities for locals that reflect the authentic heritage of old Muscat. Comparable international examples prove that tourists are attracted to urban destinations that are popular among the local community as well.”
“The master plan defines the vision for Muscat’s most prominent tourist destination, offering one of the region’s most authentic and historic waterfront promenades, while promoting the historic century’s old Muttrah harbour. The project will provide a welcome boost to the small business owners of Muscat and will generate thousands of sustainable job opportunities mainly within the Muttrah,” added Kali.