Monday, 31 December 2012

The bottom line 2012

Let's just have a quick look back on 2012 and see where the tourism offering of Oman has moved in a year. I am not talking about hard facts not announcements and press releases. What do we have more compared to 2011 that attracts more tourists? Off the top of my head:
In terms of sweet talk, promotion and softer type issues there was much more. Here are a few:

  • Muscat Arab Tourism Capital for 2012 - and all the nice buzz around it
  • An agreement to develop a Kempinski Hotel The Wave was signed by a consortia of investors
  • A new Intercontinental was announced for Muscat Hills (since the one in Shaati will be replaced by a W hotel)
  • Alila hotels signed up to manage the future Omran Hotel in Jebel Akhdar
  • Oman Sail has waved the country's name all over the sailing word this year, wining the Extreme Sailing Series, tourism promotion awards and bids to organize international sailing events
  • And of course Sheraton managed to stay closed for another year.

The above suggest to me that perhaps we need to remind ourselves of the basics: visitors are coming for attractions. The better they are packaged the more will come. Hotel are just services, parts of the package but are rarely the attractions themselves. I am really looking forward to new tourist products in the coming years that act as attractions rather then just services. Here are a few with some potential: The City Walk Muscat could finally be proper master planned activation of beach areas, The Oman Convention & Exhibition Center,  The Alila Resort in Jebel Akhdar, The Club Med in Salalah, and the de-industrialized and leisure focused waterfront regeneration in SQ Port in Mutrah etc. Insha'Allah.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Omani success...through sports again

I have been enthusing over the role of sports in building a competitive mind set and subsequently economy for some time now. I know the link might seem pretty  remote at the first glance, but put in a cultural and strategic context it does make sense to me.

So here's another success of Omani sportsman that should encouraging, inspire and drive kids to take up  various sports and if suits them to engage in professional performance pursuits.

The Oman Sail teams in the Extreme Sailing Series have finished the championship in top position.  The Wave (skipper Leigh McMillan) has won the gold by a narrow margin ahead of a French team, while Oman Air (skipper Morgan Larson) clinched the podium in a tight and exiting last race, literary winning on the last meters.
This is a huge result for Oman and Oman Sail, a timely justification of the strategy they took some years back.
What will be important now, it to provide proper media coverage to Hashim Al Rashdi (@hashim_alrashdi) from The Wave Muscat team and Nasser al Mashari from team Oman Air to talk about how much work and dedication is needed to achieve these levels.

To tell the story of the journey that took them from aspiring young dinghy sailors to members of the best sailing teams around the word. They should not forego this opportunity and act as inspirational figures. Having the professional backing of OmanSail behind this might be an easier task than for many other promising athletes in Oman.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Health camp or lancet?

I have read the other day in the Hi magazine's readers comments section on ways  to improve the domestic tourism.  If you have been following my tourism related mumbles inhere, you know I  emphasized a few times the importance of domestic tourism and means of improving it.
A new thought is related to health tourism. This is normally associated to wellness, spas, thermal water, nutrition, holistic light treatments (non-intrusive). Not to be confused with medical tourism (dental, plastic surgery etc.).

I have a couple of surgeon friends in Muscat and they always amaze me. Not just their ability to save lives and improve conditions of living, but also of how much they have to work on obesity related malfunctions. And these are very costly interventions most of the time covered by the patients themselves. So there is a whole lot of disposable income available for painful interventions with the hope of quick and sustainable result. These are certainly quick and in most cases result in noticeable  improvements,  however they are all but sustainable. For that it would take change of habits, mentality, the proof of results through nutrition and lifestyle. No lancet can do that.

But, there might be an opportunity for some retreat programs aimed at changing your lifestyle, nutrition, exercise habits achieving sustainable results and a healthier population. Maybe it sounds naive but it's actually not. There are several examples of such 'fit farms'  where guest partake in a 7-10 days strict retreat type programs, living in  a remote "hotel" which resemble more like a camp. It's not an all inclusive, all you can eat health resort with some light morning stretching followed by beach pose all day long pretending you are recharging. It's more like a boot camp that once you sign up and pay the expensive fee they guarantee you will walk out as a different person. With more self confidence, more healthy nutrition habits, being aware of how to push your limits, and perhaps with a bit more inner balance. The best such example is The Ashram (in California and Spain) and perhaps the Canyon Ranch in US.

Obviously there are thousands of variations from a sports and endurance focus to weight loss, from detox and nutrition to body and soul balance etc. The bottom line, with people struggling for a healthier lifestyle and willing to spends thousands of rials on surgeries there must be a case for such programs and facilities.