Oman looks at golf to boost economy and employment
The new golf course opened last week at the Wave Muscat is all set to boost Oman's ambitions to lure in more tourists into the country and expand its economy to create more employment. The AlMouj Golf Course - designed by the Australian golfing legend Greg Norman - currently has 9-hole facilities but officials say it is expected to be upgraded to 18-holes in April. "I believe that we have a competitive advantage in golf compared to other Gulf countries.
Oman is backed with facilities and people to support the hosting of international golf tournaments," St John Kelliher, Almouj Golf's general manager, told Times of Oman. Travellers from US Oman attracted more than a million tourists in 2010, 12 percent more than a year earlier, according to the tourism ministry's statistics. Most of the tourists in Oman come from Europe, Japan and GCC countries but travellers from the US, too, now find the Sultanate as an attractive destination.
The unrest this year owing to the Arab Spring - in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen and even Bahrain - have proved a boon to Oman with tourists spending their winter holidays here, instead of travelling to troubled spots looking for warmer weather. They can now find golf an added bonus to their travelling itinerary. Golfing destination "We are well on the way to establishing the AlMouj Golf course as a top golfing destination in the Gulf with its unique features.
The site next to the airport has a backdrop of magnificent mountain view and a walk way to the beach," Kelliher said. The Mouj Golf Course also has an advantage of being part of the Wave Muscat's $3 billion property development. "Owners of the properties at the Wave enjoy the unique experience of being next to a world class golf course. We will soon have floodlights so that members can play in the evening once the course has been expanded to 18-hole," the GM of the Almouj Golf pointed. But it is not only about attracting tourism and foreign property buyers to the country.
The AlMouj Golf has been built entirely on local products that helped boost local trades and businesses. Kelliher said that its natural landscape has been developed from native species - shrubs, dune grasses and trees. "We even bought the white marble for the bunkers locally to support Omani products. It is important to buy local goods to capture the Omani experience and heritage. We are also using recycling water to make sure the grass stays green even in the summer," Kelliher explained. The sand dunes skirting the golf course, Kelliher said proudly, resemble the jagged Al Hajar Mountain range. The golf course has been built on the basis of conserving the environment with its irrigation lakes, to avoid damaging its natural landscape and wildlife. "The lake is now attracting a variety of species of birds to give the golf course a natural look. We have Egyptian ducks and even flamingoes flying in here, apart from local birds," he added. Oman has already established itself as a bird watching paradise with keen bird watchers travelling thousands of miles to the country for the unique experience all through the year.
The Mouj Golf also has an academy to teach golf to beginners, with no obligation to pay the membership fee. "There are videos which a trainee can watch every shot they have made during the session to learn about the technique and improve their swing. The academy will encourage Omani youngsters to take golfing in our bid to make the sport attractive to the locals," Kelliher said. On the economy front, the government is looking to increase its GDP from tourism to 3.5 percent by the end of 2015, up from 2 percent in 2011. There are currently at least 10 golf resort projects in various stages of implementation or approval process in the Sultanate, including the $400 million Muscat Hills, the Egyptian backed Murya Project in Salalah and a golf course in the Omagine project approved earlier this year. The tourism industry contributed some RO400 million in 2010 and this year the government expects it to go up by at least 7 percent, while a growth of another 10 percent is projected in 2012.