Given Oman’s maritime history, it is perhaps unsurprising that it has turned to the sea for inspiration in its bid to provide new opportunities for its youthful population. Oman Sail’s core purpose is to act as a national initiative that will contribute to the development of young Omanis through sport, and its ambitious goal to teach 70,000 children to sail by 2020 represents a significant social development initiative being undertaken in the country. The benefits that it offers include the rekindling of the nation’s maritime heritage and the raising of awareness of Oman as a destination for high-end tourism. Such goals are seldom met cheaply. However, Oman Sail’s model of commercial activity, government funding and private sector investment has granted it the ability to set about meeting them.
The organisation currently runs three sailing schools, one in Marina Bandar Al Rowdha, just to the east of the capital, another at Al Masnaah, 85 km to the west and a new facility at The Wave real estate development taking shape near Seeb International Airport. All three facilities are open to the general public and provide a range of courses for individuals and groups, as well as corporate retreat packages for local companies. Between 2008 and 2012, 8500 young Omanis have been through sail training programmes in a range of youth, women’s and community sailing camps. In 2010, 2000 youths participated, while 2011 saw a further 4000 join new sailing programmes. Oman Sail hopes to open up to eight schools in the future, an expansion which holds the promise of greater revenues as well as opportunities for societal development. For now, though, its operations are largely underwritten by government funding and corporate sponsorship.
Oman Sail has succeeded in attracting considerable private sector investment in the form of sponsorships, establishing a new benchmark in the country by demonstrating to local businesses how they can maximise return on investment through the utilisation of custom-designed sponsorship programmes. The social development aspect of Oman Sail’s activities makes the organisation an attractive proposition for large businesses looking to deploy corporate social responsibility budgets. “Commercial sponsorship is still in its infancy in Oman. In 2010, we signed national and international commercial packages with leading Omani and multinational companies. Sponsorship revenues are a significant part of our funding streams for the next five years, subsequently we invest time and resources ensuring we over deliver our commitment to our partners.
Success can be measured with several performance indicators, not least our contractual obligations. However, my favourite test is repeat business. All of our 2010 commercial partners continued their sponsorship for 2011, and for many of them Oman Sail is a significant percentage of their 2011 marketing budget,” David Graham, the CEO of Oman Sail, said in a statement released by the organisation in 2011.
Oman Sail’s instructor programmes open up possible career paths in the private sector leisure and tourism industry, overseas sailing groups and managership within the growing network of facilities of the firm itself.
Growing The Future
The training and youth programmes carried out by Oman Sail – such as its Youth Day of Inspiration, held in November 2012 – is important not just for the development of sailing in Oman itself, but also in the context of helping boost the ability of the sultanate’s youth to realise future opportunities for economic growth through entrepreneurship and individual initiative as they get older. “If we are going to establish a genuinely creative economy built on enterprise then a paradigm shift in culture needs to happen in Oman and this starts by instilling core values of leadership, creativity and perseverance,” Sayyid Faisal bin Turki Al Said, the director-general of marketing and media at the Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development (PAIPED), told OBG.
The Oman Sail programme aims to promote those same qualities of leadership, creativity and perseverance in future generations, to the benefit of Oman’s future, both in general economic terms and in more intrinsic ones.