Oman hopes Blue City development will lure tourists
OMAN is constructing five new eco-friendly resorts along the Al Sawadi seafront as part of the first phase of a new 35-sq km Blue City development, to be made operational within the next three years.
The $15-billion city is a multi-stage project that will be completed in 2020 and will permanently house some 200,000 people.
Billed the largest urban economic development in the region, the 35-sq km Blue City or Al Madina Al Zarqa, will feature tourist resorts as well as extensive education, healthcare and sports facilities, to be constructed in multiple phases, making it a tourism and business destination of national, regional and international relevance. “These are aspects that work hand-in-hand with tourism but go beyond it,” Heiko Achilles, CEO, ReeMoon Real Estate Development, owner representative and development manager, told TTN.
The first phase of the project is expected to occupy not less than 8.5 sqkm, with a coastal strip running up to 4.5 km, and will host five beach resorts and hotels providing approximately 2,000 hotel rooms, signature golf course and golf community, approximately 3,000 residential units comprising villas and apartments, and a state of the art aquarium, all at a cost of $1.8 billion, according to Achilles.
Much of this residential space will be available for expatriate ownership, says Achilles. “The recent law allowing expatriate ownership is one of the reasons for the project.” The first apartments will be ready to move into by the end of 2006 or early in 2007.
The development is expected to house more than 20 (mostly five-star) hotels upon completion. “The project aims to attract direct foreign investment and some of the top global players as operators for the facilities. We have received tremendous interest from anchor hotel and leisure operators, operators such as Marriott, St Regis of Starwood, Raffles, Campbell Grey Hotels currently operating Carlisle Bay Hotel in Antigua and OneAldwych in London and many other names,” says Ahmed Janahi, vice-chairman of Al Sawadi Investment & Tourism Company and chairman & CEO of the Bahrain-based AAJ Holdings Company. “We have ensured to apply all necessary measures for the project to be friendly to the environment with unique life style reflecting the heritage and authenticity of Oman.” About two million visitors are expected to visit the City each year and the entire City will generate an estimated 50,000 jobs.
The project is being touted as eco-friendly and following the principles of sustainable development, “developed with nature, not against it”. It will integrate parks, beach promenades and a natural creek reserve as well as maximise the experience and use of waterfront activities and underwater exploration.
By Keith J Fernandez