Opening the Door on Oman. (Business & Finance)

Article excerpt

Regional governments are hoping for a swift return to `business as usual' as swiftly as possible after a conclusion to the conflict in Iraq. Once security and stability have been established, hopes are high that the tourist industry, which suffered so badly in the wake of 11 September, may begin to regenerate. Sheikh Mohammad Al Zubair, Advisor for Economic Planning to Oman's Sultan Qaboos and founder of the giant Al Zubair Corporation, has become deeply involved in efforts to revitalise interest and further develop the vast potential the sultanate possesses. Sheikh Mohammed talked to The Middle East's Caroline Carpentier in Muscat.

TME: Oman is perhaps the least known country of the GCC although the sultanate has a prestigious cultural and historical heritage combined with amazing landscapes. What has the Al Zubair Corporation's contribution to the country's tourism industry been?

MAZ: Unfortunately, the current political and economic situation is not encouraging visitors to come to the Middle East region. But Oman is a beautiful country with a lot to offer. His Majesty would like our big companies, such as the Al Zubair Corporation, to develop projects that will attract visitors and boost the tourism industry. That's what we did.

TME: Today the development of the tourism industry is a priority. Do you expect this industry to become a major source of income for the country?

MAZ: Yes, Oman has everything to become a first class tourist destination. As you know, we are building a very big resort (Barr Al Jissah) which will open around 2005. This resort will really upgrade our country at a tourist destination, providing top hotels and very high quality services. Additionally, there are other projects such as the Al Sawadi Beach under development and yet more in Dhofar, Salalah and the Batinah Coast regions.

TME. What type of tourism will you be targeting?

MAZ. The idea is to set a standard of luxury that will target top of the range visitors. We will shortly begin a serious campaign to promote Oman as an international destination. Our project (Barr Al Jissah) is, both for HM the Sultan and for us, a pilot-project. The government took shares in it, which is an indication of how committed our leaders are to developing tourism in the sultanate.

TME: In order to develop the tourism industry it will be important to attract investors. Which countries or companies are you targeting in particular?

MAZ: From 1974 to 1984 I was Minister of Industry and Commerce. During that time studies were made to improve our ability to create a good environment for developing tourism. So you see, this is not a new idea. …