Muscat: The total investments in Oman's heritage and tourism sector is expected to reach OMR3 billion for 2021-2025, the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism said.

Also, the number of hotel rooms in Oman is expected to reach 33,000 by the end of 2025, the ministry said adding that it aims to increase the share of the sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) to OMR920 million, or 2.75 percent to 3 percent of GDP, by 2025. The contribution of the tourism sector to GDP, at constant prices in 2021 reached 2.4 percent, according to the statistical data issued by the NCSI.

This was stated by the Director of the Oman Vision 2040 Office at the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism (MHT). He said heritage and tourism sectors in the Sultanate of Oman has achieved high rates in their annual plans, which are consistent with Oman Vision 2040 objectives.

Oman Vision 2040 includes a number of targets in the tourism sector, including attracting investment, financial sustainability, and enhancing the contribution of the tourism sector to the labour market, Dr Rashid bin Saleh Al Hinai, Director of the Oman Vision 2040 Office at the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism said on Sunday. The work has been done side by side with the Oman Vision 2040 Implementation Follow-up Unit to develop MHT’s goals that related to the vision document.

In coordination with the Oman Vision 2040 Implementation Follow-up Unit, work is underway to develop other indicators such as the labour market indicators in the tourism sector, the identity and citizenship index, and the social welfare index, whereby the objectives of the Omani tourism strategy, the comprehensive tourism development plan and the various plans and programs of the MHT were taken into account when preparing these indicators.

Dr Rashid Al Hinai added that the investment index comes within the priority of the private sector, investment and international cooperation in Oman Vision 2040, where the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, in cooperation with The National Program for Investment and Exports Development (Nazdaher) prepared the investment programme for the MHT and it was completed during the first quarter of this year.

The investment programme of the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism includes more than 440 diversified investment projects, as the volume of investments in the implemented and planned projects for the period of 2021-2025 amounted to about OMR2.7 billion, about OMR2.3 billion out of which, are confirmed investments.

In accordance with this investment programme, the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism periodically follows up on projects based on the relative importance of these projects and on the size of the investment related to them, placing more focus on projects that cost OMR5 million or more, as well as focusing on projects that support the empowerment of local tourism.

Among the most important investments that are being monitored through this programme are the investments related to the integrated tourism complexes, as the value of the planned investments for the period 2021-2025 amounted to about OMR1.5 billion, while one of the most prominent integrated tourism complex agreements that were signed during this year is the agreement to develop the Mandarin Oriental Project in the Governorate of Muscat.

In order to support the achievement of the targeted investment for the year 2025, MHT also issues approvals for private projects, based on submitting of supply and demand study, where 10 new approvals were granted during the first quarter of this year 2023.

As for the new projects on the lands belonging to the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, the targeted plan during 2023 is to sign 25 usufruct contracts through a direct contracting system and to offer a number of investment opportunities to compete for it among private sector companies.

One of the main requirements of the Ministry during the current period is the availability of financial capacity with the investors, employment plans, local content of the projects and entertainment and tourism components of the projects , in accordance with the nature of each project and its contribution to support the strategic direction of MHT and the acceleration of the implementation of projects.

Regarding the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), Dr. Rashid Al Hinai clarified that, the MHT pays great attention to this category, and work is underway to allocate a number of investment opportunities for SMEs , which will be presented in packages of opportunities during the coming period.

He said that, the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism has also adopted a local content policy, while all contracts costing less than OMR10,000 are awarded to SMEs.

Dr. Al Hinai also clarified that, the total government revenues from the tourism sector at the end of 2021 reached OMR3.8 million, compared to OMR12.4 million at the end of 2022, with a growth rate of 227 percent between 2021 and 2022, while the annual growth rate targeted to be achieved is not less than 5 percent.

He pointed out that, the decrease in the revenues during 2021 is attributed to the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, but due to the exemptions obtained by investors in the sector, and to the improvement of the situation in the tourism sector and also due to the flowing of more investments in the sector and as a result of financial collection efficiency by the ministry, a high growth rate has been achieved in the total government revenues from the tourism sector in the year of 2022.

Regarding the index of preserving heritage and culture, Dr. Rashid bin Saleh Al Hinai said that the Sultanate of Oman is currently preparing a file to include the archaeological site of Bisya and Salut in the World Heritage List.

The target also to be achieved in the year of 2025 is to enable the private sector and the civil companies to invest in 25 historical monuments, while it should be noted here that the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism was able to sign a number of 12 investment contracts up to date, the most recent of which was the Bahla Fort investment contract.

The work is also underway on a number of projects, including the implementation of a field work programme to monitor the fall of meteorites on the Sultanate of Oman, preparation for publishing a scientific book on meteorites, supporting the private museums and heritage houses, the implementation of the innovation project in the Omani Sarooj and its production in commercial quantities for the restoration and maintenance of heritage buildings, continuing the archaeological excavations and surveys, attracting archaeological missions, and producing scientific publications specialised in this field.

The ministry of Heritage and Tourism is also implementing promotional campaigns and partnerships in the targeted markets to increase annual events for domestic tourism,attracting international events and weddings parties ,attracting the charter trips and cruise ships , attracting the organising of conferences events in Oman , increasing the number of meetings held in the Oman , and increasing the incentives, while the associated targets have been set and work has begun on the implementation process.

As for the future plans to complete the achievement of these targets and the set timetable for their implementation, the director of the Oman Vision 2040 Office at the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism clarified that , the comprehensive tourism development plan is considering the main reference plan of the ministry as a medium-term executive plan through which the implementation of projects and programmes affiliated with the ministry is followed up, in accordance with the annual operational plans.

He pointed out that, there are specialised executive programmes including, the investment programme, the adventure tourism programme, tourism promotion programme, and the labour market and employment programme in the tourism sector. Each of these programmes includes a set of projects and initiatives to be implemented in accordance with specific timetables and to availability of the financial resources and capabilities.

He also clarified that, the ministry conducts a comprehensive quarterly assessment of the plans and programmes related to these targets and the achieved values, so that they are shared with the Oman Vision 2040 Implementation Follow-up Unit and the concerned authorities in this regard, the Ministry also conducts a midterm evaluation of the approved operational plan.

Dr. Rashid Al-Hinai also pointed out that, the draft tourism law comes within the priority objectives of legislation and the judiciary in Oman Vision 2040, while the amended draft law is in the advanced stages of its legislative session. This law aims at keeping pace with the changes in the global tourism sector, give flexibility to simplify procedures, and grant broader powers to the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism in regulating the sector.

Dr. Rashid Al-Hinai concluded his statements, saying that ,the preliminary data for the year 2022 shows an improvement in the general situation of tourism, as the number of international visitors increased from 652,00 visitors during 2021 and reaching to 2.9 million in 2022.

It is worth noting that the Oman Vision 2040 Office at the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism is concerned with following up and ensuring integration between planning and implementation in the ministry, to achieve the goals of Oman Vision 2040. It is also the link between the ministry of Heritage and Tourism and the Follow-up Unit for the implementation of Oman Vision 2040 in whatever related to efforts to achieve the objectives of the vision in the tourism sector.

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