Oman: Tourism: Taking Oman To The Next Level

Last Updated: 13 March 2018
Article by Nick Simpson

The Sultanate of Oman possesses a number of the key characteristics of a premier tourist destination – a diverse environment, unspoiled beaches, breath-taking mountains and a wealth of historical sites (including a number with UNESCO World Heritage status) – all of which help to make the country a truly unique location in the Middle East. 

The National Program for Enhancing Economic Diversification (Tanfeedh) is implementing steps aimed at further enhancing Oman's status as a go-to tourism destination. The Tanfeedh programme was established in early 2016 with the primary aim of increasing economic diversification and reducing the Sultanate's reliance on the volatile oil and gas industry. It identified five sectors as being key in achieving this aim – manufacturing, transportation and logistics, fisheries, mining and last, but not least, the tourism sector. Oman's Ministry of Tourism, through the Tanfeedh programme and other initiatives, has set an ambitious target of attracting more than 5 million international visitors to Oman annually, up from just over 3 million in 2016, while also seeking to raise the tourism sector's contribution to the Sultanate's gross domestic product from 2.8% to 6%.

A vast number of key projects aimed at achieving the country's ambitious goals are in various stages of development across Oman. Oman Tourism Development Company SAOC (Omran) is targeting delivery of a number of new hotels in 2018, including the five-star W Hotel currently being constructed in Muscat, which will provide more than 1,000 additional rooms. Omran is also overseeing Oman's latest flagship master-development - the Madinat al Irfan Urban Centre – which, with the new Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre at its heart, is being billed as the "gateway to Oman".  Other developments to note are the ongoing expansion of the Royal Opera House Muscat and the proposed redevelopment of Port Sultan Qaboos, which is likely to benefit the tourist trade in Muttrah, the historical heart of Muscat, hugely. 

On the regulatory side, the government has taken the step of adding twenty-five countries to the list of those whose citizens are eligible for non-sponsored tourist e-visas. This means that nationals from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia or Schengen Area can now obtain e-visas in advance of arriving in Oman, thereby helping to address waiting times at immigration. To put this into perspective, previously only Chinese, Indian and Russian nationals were eligible for non-sponsored e-visas.

These steps and others certainly seem to be making a positive impact. The Lonely Planet travel publication ranked Oman among the Top Ten Destinations in the world to visit in 2017 and, in its economic impact report for 2017, the World Travel and Tourism Council placed the Sultanate ninth in the world in terms of overall growth in the tourism industry.

Nevertheless, there are still hurdles that must be overcome if Oman is to stake and maintain a claim as a leading tourist destination. Aside from a need to enhance its infrastructure, the Sultanate also suffers from a local skills shortage in the tourism and hospitality industry. According to data from the National Centre for Statistics and Information, by 2040 there will be 500,000 jobs in tourism and hospitality in Oman, demonstrating the significant role the industry is projected to play in employing residents, both local and expatriate, in the future. However, there is still a perception that work in this sector, with its long and often unsociable hours and low pay, is unappealing, making it difficult to attract Omanis to seek employment in this field. It is therefore critical that the government does all it can to promote the tourism industry, not just abroad, but also locally in order to raise awareness amongst the Omani workforce as to the opportunities the sector presents. 

Regardless of the current infrastructure challenges and labour shortages, recent developments in the Sultanate's real estate market are likely to serve to boost the tourism sector. At present, expatriates in Oman are permitted to buy property only in specially designated developments known as integrated tourism complexes (ITC). The development of new ITC projects is one of the elements of the Tanfeedh initiative and the Times of Oman newspaper recently reported that the Sultanate plans to invest US$10.39 billion in developing five new ITCs including 5,000 homes which will be available for purchase by expatriates. This should, indirectly, boost the tourist sector if more non-Omanis enter the market and purchase properties as holiday homes.  

Recently, the government has taken its lead from the UAE and Saudi Arabia in passing legislation permitting the establishment of Real Estate Investment Funds (REIFs), a move which appears to be aimed at stimulating growth in the tourism sector as well as the real estate market in general. The Capital Market Authority's Decision No. 2 of 2018 (also known as the REIF Regulations) sets out a comprehensive regulatory framework whereby REIFs are permitted to invest in properties (of which at least 50% must be income-generating) provided they offer at least 40% of their capital to the public and trade on the Muscat Securities Market, thereby providing investors with the opportunity to invest in 'liquid' real estate interests.  

REIFs typically own, operate and trade in several types of commercial real estate assets such as office buildings, apartment complexes, hospitals, warehouses, shopping malls and, most importantly for the tourism sector, hotels. An interesting aspect of REIFs is that while they are generally prohibited from investing in undeveloped lands, REIFs are permitted to invest in real estate under construction, subject to certain conditions. This will provide an important additional source of financing for hoteliers looking to develop projects in the Sultanate. 

We also foresee further potential for the tourism sector in Oman should the concept of  "Management Rights Schemes" be embraced by the government and other relevant stakeholders in the sector. Management Rights Schemes were first established in the late 1970's on Queensland's Gold Coast in Australia and are now broadly utilised across Australia and New Zealand. At the time, the Queensland government and hotel and resort developers realised, on one hand, that there was a financial advantage to titling separate hotel rooms or apartments and selling them to third party investors, providing a higher return on investment than a sale of an entire hotel or resort and, on the other, allowing third party investors – individuals, pension funds and other investors - a return on income generated by a hotel or resort as a part owner of a complex. 

Management Rights Schemes are distinct to fractional ownership schemes, timeshare schemes and REIFs, which do not provide sole ownership or title to a distinct room or apartment. Resorts or hotels are run by an on-site manager or operator, who look after the day-to-day operations, as well as providing a "letting management service" to investor owners. They provide owners with a means of marketing their properties for short term leasing - mainly to tourists - creating additional accommodation and addressing under-occupancy issues in residential complexes. 

Dentons is a global law firm with strong cross-border capabilities, and has operated in the Sultanate of Oman for 36 years (and in the Middle East for over 50 years). During this time we have played an active and integral role in assisting clients operating in Oman's tourism sector, from prominent international hotel groups to mixed use, hotel and ITC developers. Our associate firm, S&A Law Firm, provides dispute resolution and advocacy services throughout Oman, possessing a deep knowledge in all the main areas of dispute resolution, including litigation, arbitration and mediation.

Dentons is the world's first polycentric global law firm. A top 20 firm on the Acritas 2015 Global Elite Brand Index, the Firm is committed to challenging the status quo in delivering consistent and uncompromising quality and value in new and inventive ways. Driven to provide clients a competitive edge, and connected to the communities where its clients want to do business, Dentons knows that understanding local cultures is crucial to successfully completing a deal, resolving a dispute or solving a business challenge. Now the world's largest law firm, Dentons' global team builds agile, tailored solutions to meet the local, national and global needs of private and public clients of any size in more than 125 locations serving 50-plus countries. www.dentons.com.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Events from this Firm
26 Sep 2018, Conference, New York, United States

Dentons is delighted to support a global IT services and consulting firm Miratech as an event host partner at their annual conference called M-Force18 New York on September 27th. The event will be held at Dentons New York office in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, opposite Rockefeller Center.

2 Oct 2018, Seminar, Dallas, United States

We are pleased to offer a program of five sessions designed specifically for in-house counsel. Topics will include:

  • In-house corporate ethical issues
  • What recent Supreme Court decisions mean for business
  • Keeping lawyers out of your benefit plans
  • Litigation tactics for in-house counsel
  • Employment issues in the age of #MeToo
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions