Oman gets ready to host BEST Conference

Rajiha Bint Abdel Ameer Bin Ali

TO give a fillip to its tourism industry, Oman is set to hold its first BEST (Build Environments for Sustainable Tourism) Conference from February 5-8.

HE Rajiha Bint Abdel Ameer Bin Ali, minister of tourism, along with Francesco Frangialli, WTO secretary-general, will inaugurate the four-day conference at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel. The purpose of the conference is to:

• Examine case studies of tourism projects all over the world, ranging in scale from eco-lodges to regional master plans for mass tourism, that have successfully incorporated principles of sustainability in all elements of their physical and architectural design;

• Identify principles, guidelines and specific criteria that can be applied to the design of resorts, hotels and other tourism infrastructure in order to guarantee the authenticity of the tourism offer in the region and its long term sustainability, as well as to maintain the distinctive character of cities, vernacular architecture, and local communities;

• Highlight examples of best practice where respect for the principles of sustainability and cultural diversity have led to commercial success for the private sector;

• Identify ways and means to disseminate such principles, guidelines and criteria among the architectural professionals, tourism planners and developers;

• Find ways to encourage national and local government to undertake the required political, legislative changes and administrative systems with a view to ensure the realisation of the above principles in all tourism development programmes and projects;

• Contribute to making the tourism industry in Oman a sustainable activity, cooperating to the overall development of the country.
On February 6, two seminars will be held. Under Heritage and Adaptive Re-use for Tourism Purposes and Design, the case studies will be the Casa Morisca Hotel in Granada, Spain (recipient of Europa Nostra Award), the Case of the Pousadas, Portugal and Monuments and Public Buildings: the Malabar House in India. In the second session, Design and Construction of Modern Tourism Facilities will be discussed. Examples of Al Gouna Resort, Egypt, the impact of new library and modern hotels in Alexandria, Egypt and Taybet Zaman & Kan Zaman in Jordan will be highlighted.
The following day, field trips to sites of architectural significance will be organised ie Manah Settlements, Misfat Al Abreen and Bahla Fort, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. On the last day, Eco-Lodges and Environment will be the topic of discussion in the first session. Siwa Eco-Lodge (Egypt), Qa’a village development project (Lebanon), Conservation Corporation (South Africa) and Sustainable Architecture for Eco-Lodges (ED Stone & Associate, US) will be the case studies. Urban & Local Regeneration through Sustainable Tourism will incorporate Revitilisation of Historic Centers for Sustainable Tourism, Mexico, the case of Koge, Denmark and tourism and comprehensive territorial policy: Perche, France. The final session will tackle the issue of The Debate Sustainability, Cultural Diversity and Destination Image. A dinner and a show at the Al Felaj Theatre will follow concluding remarks by Rajha Bint Abdel Ameer Bin Ali and Frangialli.
The lead sponsors for the event are The Wave and Dar-al handasah, while the co-sponsors are Mark Tours, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts. The official airline is Gulf Air and other co-sponsors are Oman International Bank (OIB) and Aramex.