MUSCAT: European Tour stars from around the world have started to gather in Muscat ahead of the 2019 Oman Open which promises to be another enthralling week of world-class golf in the heart of the Sultanate.
Zahara Tours is proud to announce its collaboration with the prominent Chinese integrated investment enterprise, Meishang International Group. This alliance has been formed to enhance the development of Chinese tourism to the Sultanate of Oman.
Muscat: Ministry of Tourism is set to participate in World Travel Market (WTM), starting in London today. The Omani delegation is being headed by Maitha Al Mahrouqi, undersecretary at the Ministry of Tourism (MoT). The four-day event, which concludes on November 5, will focus on destination branding and changes shaping tourism markets among other things. Besides highlighting the tourism services and facilities available in Oman, the Sultanate’s delegation will also promote the fundamentals of tourism. It will also provide opportunities to companies and institutions to promote their programmes and contributions. With the Sultanate celebrating the 45th Anniversary of its Blessed Renaissance that ushered in an era of progress and prosperity under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Omani pavilion at WTM will feature 24 private sector tourism companies and institutions. Participants The list includes Marc Tours company, Al-Bustan Palace Hotel, Desert Gate Tourism, Millennium resort and spa, City Seasons Muscat Hotel, Atana Hotels, Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah, Travel Point (Tour Oman), IHG Muscat Hotel, Oman Hotels & Company, Zahara Tours, Sifawy Boutique Hotel, Bahwan Tourism, Eihab Travels, Hormuz Grand Hotel, Haffa House Hotel, Golden Tulip Seeb, Al Nahda Resort & Spa, Oman Airports Management Company (OAMC), Anantara Jabal Akhdar Resort, Magic Arabia, National Travel & Tourism, Alila Jabel Akhadar Hotel and Banat Oman. WTM is a leading global event for the travel industry and a vibrant business platform which brings together diverse destinations and industry sectors as well as international travel professionals to the United Kingdom. It is a must-attend business-to-business exhibition for travel and tourism industry worldwide. Image-building event It is also the largest image-building event in the international travel industry. Every year, the expo attracts over 5,000 specialists, with about 5,000 companies from nearly 186 countries partaking in the event. About 51,500 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and members of the international press, embark on ExCeL – London every November, to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry opinions and trends at WTM. It is a unique opportunity for the whole global travel trade to meet, network, negotiate and conduct business under one roof. Moreover, it serves to build a business relationship with these companies and to introduce them to investment opportunities available in Oman. The WTM London is part of Reed Travel Exhibition’s World Travel Market events, which also include Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, World Travel Market Latin America and World Travel Market Africa.
Muscat: Nassarudin Mohammed emerged the champion at the third Open Golf Tournament jointly organised by National Finance, one of the leading financial companies, in association with International Heavy Enterprises (IHE), the official dealers of Volvo Trucks and Buses. According to a press release issued by the organisers, the tournament received an overwhelming response as golfers flocked to strut their swings and friends and family cheered them through. Nassarudin Mohammed was declared the winner and proudly walked away with the grand trophy that was unveiled a few days ago to an ecstatic audience. An 18-hole round of 68 nett allowed Nassarudin to attain victory in the tournament. Giving him good competition was Ghala Golf Club member Sunny Nagpal, who narrowly missed out on a countback but also finished with a nett 68. With two more golfers scoring a nett 68, this close tournament kept the crowd on their toes. With prizes to be given in various other categories, the men’s gross winner was Ghala Golf Club member Jeff Campbell with an impressive score of 72, while Lorenzo Basco came in as runner-up with a gross score of 76. In the Ladies division, Yvonne Welling claimed first place with a nett score of 78. Jacky Franssen, scored a nett of 79, with a one shot clear runner-up place for the same. National Finance and Volvo Trucks and Buses have always shown utmost dedication to developing junior golf in the region and graciously allowed all junior golfers to enter the tournament free of charge. With a separate category for the junior league, Oman junior national squad member Fahad Al Kitani bagged the junior nett winner title with an outstanding score of 71 nett. When asked to comment on the event, Leon Sassen, Events Coordinator at Ghala Golf Club, said: “It’s truly fantastic to see so many players competing in this event. It’s the first big tournament at Ghala Golf Club this year and to have 116 players is a great effort. Congratulations to all the competitors this year.” The evening presentation was commenced by the captain of Ghala Golf Club Salim Al Harthy with Ziyad Al Zubair, Ghala Golf Club board member, Ram Mohan, General Manager of Volvo Trucks & Buses, and Taya Jandal Ali, National Finance chairman as the guest of honours. With as many as 116 players for the 2015 tournament, the event received an outstanding support from major sponsors namely National Finance and Volvo Trucks & Buses. Gulf Air and OUA Travel coupled with Zahara Tours and Shangri La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa extended their additional support to the event. Commenting on the event Mr. Taya Jandal Ali, Chairman of National Finance, said: “Each year we are getting bigger and bigger; this event is definitely a premium event in the golfing calendar in Muscat. The entire day was outstanding and congratulations again to all the winners of the day.” Although the players faced some warmer conditions than expected, the Ghala Golf Club layout proved again to be a fantastic championship facility. Built into a natural wadi in Muscat, the Ghala Valley Golf course is designed to flow through a beautiful setting of mountainous backdrops and spectacular sea views. Originally created as a sand course in 1971, Ghala Golf Club opened the first nine holes of its grass course in December 2010 and the remaining nine was completed in 2012. “We feel that our aim to bring together passionate golfers from all across was fulfilled. It’s a great platform for some healthy competition and even serves the purpose of networking. We are certain that all our initiatives to promote golf in the country will definitely see more participants for Open Tournament 2016,” Ziyad Al Zubair, Ghala Golf Club board member, said.
Dubai: A broad mix of exhibitors highlighting the growing appeal of Oman to a diverse international audience will be showcased at the Arabian Travel Market, beginning today in Dubai, according to Nadege Noblet, Exhibition Manager at Arabian Travel Market. Speaking to Times of Oman, she said Oman is expanding its tourism to cater to all segments, including the mid-market, which is something the industry is focusing on as the exhibition’s theme. Nadege Noblet, Exhibition Manager at Arabian Travel Market. Photo-Supplied “Recent figures from the Oman Airports Management Company for both Muscat and Salalah airports recorded an 18 per cent rise in passenger numbers through the capital’s gateway in 2015, surpassing the 10 million passenger mark for the first time in its operational history, while Salalah Airport also saw a rise in traffic by 22 per cent to reach more than one million passengers,” Noblet added. Exhibitors from the Sultanate participating at ATM 2016 at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre from April 25-28 include the Ministry of Tourism, 1000 Nights Camp, Al Bustan Palace, Al Nahda Resort and Spa Dunes, Alila Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort and Al Baleed Resort Salalah, Bahwan Tours, Elite Travel and Tourism, Hormuz Grand Hotel, Ibis Hotel Muscat, IHG - Crowne Plaza Duqm, Crowne Plaza Salalah, Crowne Plaza Sohar, Intercontinental Muscat IHG, Kempinski Hotel Muscat, Khasab Travels, Mezoon Travel, Oman Convention Bureau, Oman Convention Center, Oman Hotels and Tourism SAOG, Radisson Blu Hotel Muscat, Ramada Muscat Hotel, Royal Opera House Muscat, Salalah Marriot Resort, Shanfari Hotels and Resorts, Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort, Sheraton Oman Hotel, Sifawy Boutique Hotel, Six Senses Zighy Bay Resort and Spa, Smart Travel and Tourism, The Chedi Muscat, Tour Oman – Travel Point, Zahara Travel and Oman Air. Noblet noted that Oman’s Tourism Strategy for 2015 to 2040 plans an investment of $35 billion, and she said the country is working to increase its global appeal with new initiatives, such as the launch of an e-visa system by Royal Oman Police. “The Sultanate has also been a destination on several travel hotlists, and was ranked at 20th spot on the New York Times list of the 52 places to visit in 2015, as well as gaining kudos from popular travel site Skift, which last year named it as the number one spot in the region, saying the country “packs a lot within a small package”. It is, therefore, no surprise that Omani exhibitors are keen to showcase their wares to the 26,000 expected visitors,” she added. This year, ATM 2016 will welcome over 400 main stand holders and over 2,800 exhibiting companies. “Exhibitors will represent over 80 countries, while pre-registered visitors will represent over 150 countries. The main objective for the majority of exhibitors and visitors at ATM is to conduct business with people they would not usually have the opportunity to meet. Bringing together industry professionals from every region and sector, ATM is a truly international event serving the Middle East travel industry. It is also one of the industry’s leading knowledge platforms, providing global trends, innovations, research, insight and topical debate,” she added. The 23rd annual showcase will look to build on the success of the record-breaking 2015 edition, which witnessed a year-on-year visitor attendance increase of 15% to over 26,000, with exhibiting companies increasing by 5% to 2,873. “Business deals worth more than $2.5 billion were signed over the four days. This year’s instalment welcomes an additional hall to satisfy rising demand,” Noblet added.
Muscat: The historic first edition of the NBO Oman Open was inaugurated in a style befitting of an event of such importance when Minister of Sport Affairs Sheikh Saad bin Mohammed Al Mardhouf Al Saadi hit a ceremonial tee shot off the first tee at Almouj Golf here on Tuesday. The event marks the first European Tour event Oman has hosted in its history with some of the world’s best golfers gathering in Muscat to compete for a $1.75 million prize fund. Among the field, which features players from 30 different countries, are Ryder Cup stars including Robert Karlsson, Andy Sullivan, Chris Wood and Stephen Gallagher along with former Open Champions and Paul Lawrie and Darren Clarke, 2016 Open de Espana winner Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston and 2017 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters champion Jeunghun Wang. Almouj Golf first hosted a National Bank of Oman-sponsored event on the European Challenge Tour in 2013 which became the tour’s season-ending grand final in 2015 and ran for three highly successful years before gaining a further promotion onto the elite European Tour this year with a showpiece tournament that will be broadcast globally to a household reach of over 400 million, providing the perfect platform to showcase the country’s many attributes. Sayyida Rawan bint Ahmed Al Said, Chairperson of NBO, said: “Five years ago we started an incredible journey through our relationship with the European Tour with a vision to one day host a European Tour golf tournament through which we can position Oman on the international stage. “Now, today we are here and it is a very proud moment to inaugurate the NBO Oman Open as one of the highest-level golfing competitions globally, watched by millions of people around the world. “To us, golf represents much more than just a game; it is a platform that brings us all together, and helps drive Oman forward by showcasing to the rest of the world the natural beauty and talent Oman has to offer.” Oman National Team Development Squad member Ayam Al Busaidi hits a tee shot while taking part in the NBO Oman Open inaugural ceremony. Photo - Supplied Portugal’s Ricardo Gouveia, who won the 2015 NBO Golf Classic Grand Final at Almouj Golf to earn promotion to the European Tour after topping the Road to Oman Rankings and is among the field this week, said: “It’s lovely to be back here in Muscat. I have great memories here winning in 2015 and I just love the course which I feel has deserved a European Tour event. That has finally happened with the NBO Oman Open and I’m sure it will be a huge success.” Also present at the inaugural ceremony were Minister of Oil & Gas Mohammed bin Hammad Al Rumhy, a keen golfer who also hit an impressive tee shot at the inauguration, and National Bank of Oman CEO Ahmed Al Musalmi and the chairperson who participated in the official opening ceremony before being taken on a tour of the facilities which concluded with a visit to the par 3 course where a group of talented Omani junior players hit shots alongside the pros. The week’s action gets underway with Wednesday’s NBO Oman Open Pro-Am while the main event takes place from Thursday to Sunday. Blue chip support In addition to title sponsor, National Bank of Oman, the world-class event is being supported by Platinum Sponsors Occidental of Oman and Al Tasnim as well as Hole Sponsor CCED. Rolex as official timekeeper, Omantel as official communication partner and Wicked Tents as the official supplier contribute substantially through their expertise and product support. In the Silver category are Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) and Oman Oil Company Exploration and Production LLC (OOCEP). Further support for the event is provided by Oman Gas Company, Sohar Aluminium, Zahara Tours, Oman LNG LLC and Petrogas Rima. BMW as official vehicle partner, Europcar as official rental car partner, Tanuf as official water supplier, Titleist as official ball supplier and the official hotel Crowne Plaza Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre round up a great sponsor family for the event. “At Occidental of Oman, we invest in sustainable development in the communities in which we operate,” said Occidental Oman’s President and General Manager Steve Kelly. “We are proud to sponsor the first European Tour golf event in Oman as this is a great opportunity to support economic diversification in the Sultanate.” Nick Tarratt, Director European Tour International, said: “The hosting of such a high-profile event, which will be covered internationally by television broadcasting of over 1,200 hours of live and delayed coverage to a global home reach in excess of 400 million homes, is only achievable with investment from sponsors. The business community in Oman has recognised the significance of the inaugural NBO Oman Open and their support has been invaluable in bringing the event to the Sultanate.” Other supporters of the NBO Oman Open include BMW (Official Car Partner), Crowne Plaza Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre (Official Hotel Partner), Europcar (Official Rental Car Partner), Petrogas Rima (Supporting Partner) and Titleist (Official Ball).
Zahara Travel and Service Bureau (ZTSB), recently ran two training workshops to help its managers, supervisors and staff to update skills in, both, managerial excellence and personal & career development. The two workshops – ‘Managerial Excellence in Tourism’ for all managerial and supervisory cadre employees and ‘Personal and Career Development’ for all the other staff members were specially customized and conducted by Professor Panduranga Bhatta from Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta and organised by Jinachandran, Business Support Manager at ZTSB. Professor Bhatta of IIM Calcutta, India has been associated with IIM for the past several years. He has been conducting management workshops for reputed organizations - both in India and abroad for several years and possesses rich experience in research and teaching related to the Tourism industry. Commenting on the training workshops, Gautam Broota, General Manager at ZTSB said, “Our people are key contributors to the reputation Zahara has built as a reliable and professional service provider.” Broota further explained, “We are keen on investing in employee training programs that will go a long way in enhancing each employee’s knowledge and skills and thereby equip them to improve the overall customer experience. We want to be a great place to work and thereby, we constantly research and develop training programs for all members. In his inaugural speech to all staff present for the training programs, Broota highlighted the importance of such training in keeping employees updated with various new management techniques, importance of learning the personal. development techniques, learning the techniques on teaming up, sharing the responsibilities, listening and valuing suggestions, feedbacks, options, and developing solutions that work for the greater benefit, especially to the company?s customers. The training module for the 2-day workshop on Managerial Excellence in Tourism encompassed topics such as Tourism Excellence through Customer Focus, Art of Inspiring People for Delivering Excellence, Time Management and Coping with Stress, Managing Vs Leading, Developing Emotional Competence and Man Management Techniques. For the Personal and Career Development workshop, aspects such as Excellence through Customer Focus, Motivation, Soft Skills & Team Building Skills, Coping with Stress and Emotional Competency Development formed the core module of the training. Zahara has conducted several other training programs that include Hospitality and customer service training for Limousine and Transfer Chauffeurs, Leadership Excellence workshop (conducted by IIM) for all divisional managers and Customer Care workshops for key sales and marketing employees including assistant managers and training provided to back office staff on MS-Office applications for increasing efficiency. Moreover, the company has a policy of providing intensive in-house professional guiding training to its Foreign Language Speaking Tour Guides and Interpreters. “I have been entrusted with the responsibility of facilitating such training and employee development programs for our employees and I am glad about the positive feedback received from the participants on the benefits they derived out of the rich experience shared by the Professor during the workshops”, said Jinachandran.
Weddings are special and those who enter into this commitment wish to make it as memorable as possible. Some do it in a simple manner and others take the lavish route, depending on their budget and imagination. Be it splurging on expensive dresses and parties or flying to an exotic locale to tie the knot, the latter group has led to the creation of an industry dedicated to making the special day extra special. The wedding industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise and it is growing at a fast pace every year, with the destination wedding component contributing to it significantly. According to the data presented at the first global conference on destination wedding planners held in Athens, Greece, last year, the annual operation cycle of the wedding industry amounts to US$300bn and destination weddings contribute a sizable amount to this figure. It was said in the data that almost a quarter of the weddings in the world are destination events and the amount spent for their organisation is around €71.5bn. At the same time, the number of weddings that take place in remote destinations grows by ten per cent each year. With its idyllic landscape, beautiful and clean beaches and picturesque wadis plus direct air connectivity to all major cities in the world, Oman has all the resources to make an excellent wedding destination. But the country never had much of a presence in the global destination wedding map until January this year. The big fat Indian wedding hosted at Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa proved that Oman is ready to make its mark as a perfect destination for those who are looking for a unique venue to get married. This segment is set to boost the country's tourism economy in the coming years and open up new sources of revenue for the local economy in sectors like event management, food and beverages, transportation etc. Desirable destination Oman enjoys the patronage of tourists from across the world, thanks to its natural beauty and the hospitality of the local population. With an eye on boosting the country's tourist economy, the government is investing heavily in developing new hotels and resorts as well as identifying and nurturing locales that holds potential to become tourist attractions. These are essentially the factors that has the making of an ideal wedding destination. Mark Kirk, area general manager & hotel manager, Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, says, “Oman offers an authentic Arabian experience, easily accessible with connections to Europe, UK and India through Middle Eastern airlines. It encapsulated the true magic of Arabia, making it perfect as a wedding destination. As Oman is a new destination it also makes it extremely memorable for the couple and their guests where native Omanis delight in sharing their culture and traditions with visitors.” Dubai and Abu Dhabi have been dominating this segment for years in the Middle East and though it might seem that Oman was slow in identifying this potential, it actually comes as a blessing in disguise. The relative anonymity of this country in the wedding destination market has in turn given it an exotic aura, and is attracting interest from across the globe. Harsh Abrol, vice president, Zahara Tours, says, “We recently participated in a roadshow conducted by the Ministry of Tourism in four Indian cities. We met many wedding planners there and we found that Oman as a destination is gaining more popularity in India. People always want something unique and different especially when it comes to destination weddings. Dubai is done, Abu Dhabi is done and Bangkok is done. Oman's USP is that we have a unique product with its natural beauty as well as hotels and resorts of international standards.” The big fat Indian wedding market The biggest market for destination weddings in Oman is India, which is famous for elaborate weddings among the diverse communities in the country. The growth in the economy and a rise in the number of affluent people has led to a boost in the weddings industry in India and an increasing number of people are opting for destination weddings. The main locations opted by the Indian diaspora is Bangkok, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, all of which are a few hours from major airports in the country. Oman's accessibility and excellent resources gives it a definitive edge in this sector. Seeing the opportunities offered by this huge market, the Ministry of Tourism has joined hands with tour operators and hotel groups to conduct various initiatives to attract Indian clientele. Manoj Dass, head – Tour Oman, says, “Accessibility is one of the key factors. Oman Air has direct flights to around 12 cities in India and the flights takes only two and half hours on average to reach Muscat. Oman has everything that you need to hold a wedding. We have attractive locations as well as hotels and resorts with international standards. “The Ministry of Tourism has significantly supported us and contributed in promoting Oman in India where ‘Big fat destination weddings’ are trending quick..” Tour Oman organised the grand wedding at Shangri-La which involved over 1,000 guests and prior to that managed the wedding of a Marwari family wedding, with a size of 675, in November 2014. Zahara Tours will be organising two weddings in the coming months. Hotels and resorts like Shangri-La and Sifaway Boutique Hotel are also getting a lot of enquiries for destination weddings. Hotels and tour operators resort to diverse marketing strategies to attract clients in this segment. Apart from India, they are also targeting clients from the UK and other parts of Europe. There are also options for marketing this product in other parts of the GCC. Anthony Clement, hotel manager, Sifawy Boutique Hotel, says, “India and Europe are our main markets. A majority of the enquiries we get are from North India, England and Scotland. We are also targeting the German market and are looking for partners there to promote this segment. We have relations with a lot of wedding planners and are featured on several websites in the UK for example. We regularly advertise in magazines and participate in road shows with the Ministry of Tourism to market this product." Kirk says, “We promote our weddings locally through various wedding fairs and sales blitz and actively work in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism to promote our packages and offers. In addition we also utilise our social media channels, digital marketing and via our regional sales offices located in India, UK & Europe to gain additional exposure across all markets.” Hurdles and possibilities One of the major issues faced by the market at the moment is the lack quality event management services in the country. Indian weddings are lavish affairs and involves a lot of entertainment events, but in its current state, event management companies in Oman are not equipped to handle such clients. Light and sound equipment, stage decoration etc are very expensive and most organisers resort to hiring these from Dubai at much cheaper rates. Rakhee Dutia, director of sales, Sifawy Boutique Hotel, says, “Dubai and Oman are different in terms of its offerings. Dubai is more about glamour. Here, in Oman, the product is close to nature and authentic. The opportunity here, in Muscat, is to have more specialised providers like lighting, sounds, décor, rental, etc. These facilities are available in Oman, but on a limited scale and they are quite expensive. Dubai has all the top-notch facilities compared to Oman and we need to improve on that if we want to increase the destination wedding market.” Events of such grand scale require careful planning and execution, which includes hotel bookings, ticketing, visa processing, transportation, food and beverages etc. Dass says, “An entire year of effort goes into planning the event and logistics of the wedding event. From visa documentations, processing to rooming lists at hotels, transfers and transportations arrangements, all need to be minutely planned and organised well in advance. “The ministry and immigration authorities have been very helpful and we have managed to arrange everything smoothly for the weddings so far.” Certain demands from the clients can also pose problems, but resorts and tour operators say they have been able to execute these demands without much hassle. Rakhee, says, “We giver great importance to personalisation. In one of the weddings, the party wanted a white, female horse. We managed to arrange it. Another party wanted flame-throwers, we sourced them from Dubai.” Cost is another matter of concern in Oman as the room rents and food prices in the sultanate are higher compared to Dubai. But industry insiders say that the cost is justified by the facilities and the uniqueness offered by the country in terms of diverse and naturally beautiful locales. And with the construction of new hotels and resorts, the costs are expected to pare in the coming future. The major attraction of destination weddings is that it opens up direct and indirect job opportunities. There will be requirement for event planners, transportation services, food and beverage suppliers etc. Also these kind of events lead to indirect tourism promotion as people who attend these weddings spread good words about the country. Dass says,“At the rate at which destination weddings are picking up globally, Oman can safely look at a minimum of 4-5 weddings per year. The investment made in Oman in only a span of one week, definitely contributed significantly to the annual touristic spend in the destination. “Most wedding guests return to the destination with their family for a holiday, which is an indirect way of promoting tourism. The weddings that have taken place so far have created a lot of positive buzz about Oman in the prospective markets. We’re looking forward to grow this market vigorously in Oman.” Going forward this segment has immense potential to become one of the major revenue earners for the tourism sector in Oman. The government is also playing a proactive role in promoting this lucrative segment of the tourism industry. Oman has just made its foray into the segment and it has opened a host of opportunities. With careful planning and cooperation between government and private enterprises, the sultanate can certainly carve a niche in the global wedding destination map.
As another GCC market - Qatar - braces itself for zero commission to be introduced, ATN looks at how the Middle East's travel trade is coming to terms with this phenomenon.