Oman’s new Ministry of Tourism will help accelerate the pace of development and in the Sultanate, says Tourism Minister Rajiha Abdul Ameer Ali.
Also, it will contribute in no small measure in making the tourism sector a major contributor to the country’s GDP and provide more job opportunities to Omanis, she adds.
‘‘As far as the potential of the country is concerned, it is should suffice to say that the Sultanate is endowed with tourism resources that are unparalleled in the region,’’ Ameer Ali says. ‘‘Its diversified topography, its long coastal line and the Khareef in the southern region are few examples of these potentials. The government officials and the general public are aware of the importance of tourism sector to the national economy and are lending a helping hand in their areas of concern.’’
The contribution of the tourism sector to the gross domestic product (GDP) currently stands at 0.7 per cent but the government plans to increase that to 5 per cent of the GDP by the year 2020.
The minister says that the policies adopted by the Sixth Five Year Development Plan (2001-2005) will continue to be the basis for the activities of the Ministry of Tourism. The policies are reviewed and evaluated annually and, if the need arises, these policies can be amended, augmented or even changed with proper coordination with the ministry of national economy.
The total public investment programme for tourism in the current five-year plan (2001-2005) stands at about RO58 million.
‘‘This is an increase of more than 260 per cent over the allocation for the sector in the previous development plan,’’ she says. ‘‘In addition to these amounts the development budget includes around RO200 million allocated to infrastructure projects in the budgeted of a number of ministries which serve the tourism sector.’’
And what are her top priorities?
‘‘Among others, to set up an efficient and effective organisational structure for the ministry and staff it with quality personnel, intensify our market campaigns to cover both domestic and foreign markets, and co-ordinate with government ministries responsible for the provision of infrastructure to include existing and new tourist attractions in their immediate plans,’’ she says.
‘‘Also, we will identify new tourism projects and encourage the private sector to investment in them and to make full use of advanced information technology to disseminate detailed information about our many tourist attractions.’’
The minister says that even though competition in the tourism sector is tough, ‘‘We expect an increase in the inflow of tourist by a relatively high percentage as compared to the previous two years’’.
‘‘The tourist inflow is expected to touch 1.4 million in 2005 and 1.5 million in 2006. We are confident that with a number of tourist facilities and projects that are in the pipeline and intensive marketing campaigns, we will woo more tourists.’’
Commenting on whether there will be more job opportunities for Omanis in the tourism industry, Ameer Ali says: ‘‘The tourism sector is known for its ability to provide and create jobs opportunities. And we, in the Sultanate, expect to make available a good number of job opportunities for Omanis.
And will Oman seek assistance from other GCC countries to improve the country’s tourism potential?
‘‘Co-operations and tie-ups with reputed and renowned firms in the field of tourism will always be advantageous,’’ she admits. ‘‘We are going to pursue this course whenever we think it is needed. And, I feel, the time to do so has now come.’’