Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel

OMAN: A Destination with Flair

On the edge of the Arabian Peninsula, boasting lush wadis and a rich culture, Oman has long been synonymous with luxury tourism. As part of its vision for the future, the Sultanate is now

stepping into the limelight as a first-class MICE destination.

Tourism development in Oman forms a vital part of the country's long-term economic strategy.

The Sultanate witnessed a 17.7 percent increase in visitors in 2015, taking the annual figure to 2.4 million travellers – a step closer to the country's ambitious plan to grow international visitor numbers to 5.3 million by 2040.

"The MICE segment is a very important part of the country's long-term vision for tourism," stressed Khalid Al Zadjali, director, Oman Convention Bureau, Ministry of Tourism, Oman.

Scheduled to open in August, Oman Convention Bureau falls in line with the ministry's plans of boosting the destination's MICE credentials by developing a centre to manage and support the sector's prime products and services.

Highlighting the destination's rich culture, history and variety of authentic Arabian experiences, Al Zadjali commented, "We want to showcase these aspects to MICE travellers who could very well become the luxury travellers of the future."

In agreement, Lore Koenig, executive regional director, sales and marketing, The Chedi Muscat, enthused, "Promoting Oman as a first-class MICE destination will help to increase awareness among the affluent corporate world, which in turn will assist the luxury leisure market as well."

As Koenig noted, even though The Chedi Muscat is not considered a typical MICE hotel, it very much welcomes the small luxury high-end MICE clients, who can expect impeccable service and facilities.

Chiming in, Rebecca Platt, director of communications, Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, Muscat, reflected on the strong correlation between developing the country as an events destination and the enhancement of the overall luxury tourism segment.

Platt particularly emphasised the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, Muscat's breakthrough in the destination wedding market in 2015, having hosted four grand Indian weddings.

Echoing Platt's aforementioned trend, Rami Farhat, director of sales and marketing, Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, was also quick to highlight the significant increase in luxury destination weddings held at the property, with a great interest coming from India.

"India has been growing steadily to become one of our main markets for weddings, while the US is still a new market for MICE but there is potential [that] we are looking to explore and develop further," elaborated Farhat.

As to what specifically makes Oman an ideal luxury destination for MICE arrivals, Firas Rashid, area director, sales and marketing, Oman, Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara and Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar, suggested, "Increasingly, MICE travellers, particularly in the luxury segment, are looking for authentic, off-the-beaten-path experiences where they can be immersed into the [local] lifestyle, and this is something that Oman can offer [...]."