Thursday, 3 July 2014

Traction for Attractions: what would work for Oman?

It seems that the public sector is shifting one gear up on its efforts to boost tourism.  In this favorable context, I thought it would come handy a few thoughts about attractions in general spiced with some random ideas. 

First of all I would challenge the idea of a tourist attraction and emphasize the concept of a visitor attraction: locals, I mean all residents, are and will be key to the sustainability of any attraction in such a seasonal country like Oman. So what are these places of interest that carry value which motivate people to spend time and money visiting them?  Natural or man-made, cultural or adventure driven, experiential and educational.

I know this is a far bigger and more exiting topic to cover in a post, but let’s just highlight some main types of attractions that would have traction among local and visitors alike.

a) Action, Sports and Fun – Adrenalin treats, thrills and spills.  Water parks, theme parks, extreme sports parks, sports facilities, riding tracks, rides etc.  They are very divers in size, from park rides to complex extreme sport centers or multimillion visitor water parks. Some relevant examples for Oman:
  • Sea Soul Water Park –  certainly not a small replica of a Dubai one. Details in an earlier post.
  • E-Quest Academy – a state of the art equestrian center to activate the heritage of the Royal Cavalry Oman and equine culture of Oman.
  • All-Wheel-Park  - take your wheelers off the road at various levels of difficulty and fun in a controlled, facilitated environment. Cars, dirt bikes, quads, or just mountain bike, they will al find a track inhere to remember.
  • Extreme Sports Center – to teach and test you. Your mind and your body. A range of attractions that will engage kids and adults alike.
  • Ocean Sport Center – complimentary to what Oman Dive Center and Oman Sail has to offer, a dedicated complex for all kinds of water sports. From Kite boarding, to water paragliding, Water skiing, Jet ski tracks to test your skills and many more.  All and everything about balance, power and skill on waves and flat water.

b) Culture, Heritage, Religion – a collection of attractions that convey the essence of the Arabian and Omani culture and its heritage.  This a very versatile and complex category, here are just a few examples:.
  •  Sailing and Maritime Heritage Harbour – Dhows and dhow making manufacture. Fishing village feel,
    where you can  experience throwing a fishnet, or experience the feel of a 10 kg tuna on the other end of your line.
  • Pilgrim Paths - The spiritual trails, a collection of sites with religious relevance that can be accommodated for a form of pilgrimage. Apparently there are quite a few such sites in Oman.
  • Fortlife  -  a selection of forts that are converted as themed hotels/lodges with elements of reproducing the fort like living.
  • OmanCraft – a number of accredited workshops and manufactures where visitors ca experience various forms of traditional craft making (e.g. pottery, weaving, rose water manufacturing, dates processing etc.)

c) Health & Wellbeing – as healthy living and lifestyle is becoming and increasing aspiration for many, related consumption is ever popular (perhaps to compensate for the lack of fundamentally accommodating a healthier life). Spas, Wellness hotels, Holistic health centers to name the soft ones, up to surgery and medical treatment driven dedicated clinics and  hospitals.

  • Scents and Senses – parfumes or Arabia visitor center. Amouage to take their visitor center to a whole new level…
  • ShifaSpa – A destination spa in a signature location based on local traditional healing methods and treatments. Condense the essence or Arabian natural healing, body and soul pampering.
  • Fit farm – lifestyle and nutrition boot camp, for those who want to start respecting their body. Make a name that resonated to Dubai and beyond. Build on the exotic, rugged and natural perception of Oman.

d) Education & Entertainment – one can hardly separate this from b) Culture and Heritage, however certain visitor centers, museums, theaters can have a strong educational element besides entertainment.

e) Nurture the Nature - natural attraction often attract more people then man made wonders. Oman has plenty of such places they just need to be properly packaged and managed.
  • HajarHikes  – guided trails in the Hajars Mountains for all abilities and skills.
  • WadiWonders – like it says explore the best of the hundreds of Wadi and provide informational content besides the visual and tangible experience
  • and many more…
Some of these elements are already available in a way or another, and they only need a boost in terms of concept or size or both. The key in the overall offering is to have a balance that suits the seasonality constraint of Oman as well as the mix of foreign and local demand.
Nice challenging task for tourism planners but definitely worth addressing.