Interview: Hashil Al Mahrouqi

Where do you see the most promising investment opportunities in the development of the country’s tourism and hospitality sector?

HASHIL AL MAHROUQI: We have identified promising investment opportunities that align with trends in sustainable tourism, ecotourism and experience tourism. The government has taken significant steps to attract foreign direct investment in the sector, with a view to promoting ease of investment and profitability, while also ensuring the potential for long-term growth.

These measures include the provision of Customs exemptions, tax incentives and streamlined procedures for business establishment, as well as a usufruct period of 55 years, extendable up to 99 years, and a grace period on land-lease payments. Furthermore, Oman has instituted several investment-friendly policies and trade agreements that support such measures.

How do you view the role of the tourism sector in job creation, and how can private enterprises contribute to developing human capital?

AL MAHROUQI: The tourism sector is one of the main contributors to economic recovery. We have implemented several initiatives to build local competencies, develop skills and facilitate the hiring of locals in the tourism sector. Our recently launched platform, I Am Tourism, is a prime example of our efforts. It includes a range of initiatives, such as the Midhyaf training for employment programme for the hospitality sector, which trained and provided employment to 124 young job-seekers in tourism in the last three quarters of 2022. In partnership with the Ministry of Labour, we have implemented other programmes, such as Masarat, Tadreeb, Najm and the Graduates Employment Initiative. Omran also oversees the Oman Tourism College.

Through strategic partnerships with the government, educational institutions and other relevant stakeholders, private enterprises can contribute to the development of Oman’s human capital by fostering a skilled and knowledgeable workforce for the tourism sector. We believe that private enterprises can play a pivotal role in creating a sustainable and capable workforce, and enhancing the overall talent pool.

What are the key obstacles that must be overcome to establish Oman as a global tourism destination?

AL MAHROUQI: Oman has a unique tourism landscape, characterised by its authenticity, diverse cultural blend and varied topography. We are committed to leveraging these advantages to increase our appeal as a premier destination for travellers from the region and beyond.

To achieve this objective, we are focusing on three key areas: raising awareness and positioning Oman as the destination of choice, expanding and enhancing our national tourism infrastructure, and driving sustainable and structured development.

Omran’s portfolio includes projects that support these wider goals, such as the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre, the Madinat Al Irfan urban development, the Mina Al Sultan Qaboos Waterfront and the upcoming sustainable Yiti Integrated Tourism Development, which is aimed at becoming the first net-zero emissions community in Oman.

In what ways can digital technology be utilised to grow Oman’s appeal as a tourist destination?

AL MAHROUQI: Technology plays an essential role in creating a seamless experience for travellers. One of our notable accomplishments is the development of the Visit Oman portal, which serves as a business-to-business travel-booking gateway, connecting international travel trade with local tourism suppliers. The portal provides a comprehensive range of services, including direct booking for flights, hotels and transport, as well as itinerary planning and access to tourism service providers and suppliers. Through strategic partnerships with leading digital platforms, we have expanded our reach which has helped us enhance the overall tourism experience.