Oman sees golf as key for tourism future
by Middle East Online
Oman sees golf as the key to growing its tourism industry and hopes to emulate the success of Dubai's courses which host the Desert Classic at the Majilis Course at the Emirates Golf Club.
It may have year-round sunshine, sandy beaches, cliff-top forts and desert dunes, but Oman is hoping golf will help it lure more tourists as it tries to wean its economy off oil exports.
Today, the Gulf Arab country has one 9-hole course which is frequented by Western expatriates, businessmen and tourists.
That sand course has seen better days, but foreign investors are developing beach resorts incorporating luxury hotels, villas and condominiums nestled amid 18- and 36-hole golf courses.
At least 10 golf resorts are at various stages of planning or construction around Oman.
They include the $400 million Muscat Golf Course, as well as courses planned as part of the $7 billion Blue City, Dubai Holding's $2 billion Salam Yiti resort and the Murya project in the southern port city of Salalah.
"Golf is seen as one sure way to attract wealthy European tourists to the country, besides the beaches and the sun," Cyril Piaia, Murya's CEO, said.
The Wave project, under construction in the capital Muscat, will include an 18-hole course designed by Greg Norman. The $1.6 billion Omagine resort received government go-ahead this month.
Omani Tourism Minister Rajha Abdulamir Ali said the government was looking to raise tourism revenues to 2.5 percent of gross domestic product in 2008 and golf was part of the plan.
"The tourism industry contributed some 328 million rials ($852 million) in 2007 and this year we see it reaching about 400 million rials," Ali told Reuters.
"Certainly, golf would help bring in more tourists here."