The Sultanate of Oman may get less attention than some of its high profile neighbors, but American educated Assistant Director General of Tourism Promotion Ghasi Humaid Al Hashmi says this will be changing.
Leveraging his country’s diversity, the tourism boss plans to put Oman front and center on the world stage with elite travelers. During World Travel Market in London he took a break to catch up with Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan.
Elite Traveler: Can you give us an overview of tourism to Oman?
Ghasi Humaid Al Hashmi: We are distinguishing ourselves with our neighbors. People always ask how do we compare with Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar? The answer is, we aren’t competing against them, we are completing them. What we have is different from what they have. We focus on our natural history, our diverse geography and the variety of offerings we can provide.
ET: Can you give us some examples?
GHAH: It’s a long list of experiences we have: Scuba diving, boating, climbing, trekking, camping, caving, kite surfing, mountain biking, sailing, off road adventures, bird watching, whale watching, turtle watching. We now have three 18 hole grass golf courses. There’s much more.
ET: What about Oman’s geography?
GHAH: We have 11 regions, and each region has its own story. The story in the North is different than the south. Even the dress is different. People think the Gulf is too hot in the summer. In our mountains it’s cool with cool breezes. It’s actual the best time to visit. We have over 500 historic forts, and the Ministry of Tourism is now developing 50 to be redeveloped for tourism purposes.
ET: What are the plans for further tourism development?
GHAH: We are doing a lot of work in communities to develop tourism related businesses. We see the opportunity for new small and mid-size companies around tourism growth. We are preparing our national tourism plan for the next 30 years. It will take another year or two to finalize. It will include all parties involved in the government and private sector.
ET: What about near term development and growth?
GHAH: We will have a new airport in two years. We will have a new convention center by 2016, and we are adding a significant number of hotel rooms. In 2012 visitor totals rose from 1.5 million to over 2 million. We are growing in the UK, Southeast Asia, India, Europe and we want to target North America.
ET: Anything else you would like to add?
GHAH: Oman is known for friendly people. Chances are you’ll get invited by people to come to their house. Here at World Travel Market we have 22 private sector participants at our stand. Our goal is to make Oman a high profile world tourism destination.