Lack of access to funds for developing tourism projects by private entrepreneurs is an important challenge faced by the sector. "Most of the tourism projects are facing financial challenges,- said Ahmed bin Nasser Al Mehrzi, Minister of Tourism.
He was addressing an interactive meeting organised by the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) as part of Ramadan economic evenings.
Elaborating on other important challenges faced by this vital sector, he said readiness of Omanis to get involved in tourism field and an integrated tourism plan are other major hurdles in developing a vibrant tourism sector in the country.
"If we want to compete, we need to have qualified people,- the minister said, adding; "We also found that we need to have a vision for tourism sector. In order to have an integrated planning, we need active an involvement of several agencies like hotels, tour operators and airlines.-
The minister said tourism as an industry in the Sultanate is yet to reach its maturity level and the government wants the private sector to play a bigger role in developing tourism industry. "Our role is limited to provide incentives and framing rules and regulations.-
Development of tourism is vital for Oman's economic development due to its immense potential and ability to provide employment opportunities on a large scale for youths. The minister also noted that marketing Oman as an attractive tourism destination can not be done by his ministry alone, as national carrier like Oman Air should play an important role.
Citing the poor progress in developing tourism projects by private sector between 2006 and 2010, the minister said the government has sanctioned 41 major tourism projects during the five year period. "Only three projects are operating, nine are under implementation, 19 are not started, five have been shelved and two will start operation this year,- he said, adding; "(As many as) 65 per cent of the projects did not see the light. As per the initial plan, these projects would have added 15,000 rooms if implemented. But it did not happen.-
He said global financial crisis was one of the major reasons for the apathy of private sector in developing these projects. "Government focus was on providing land and offering incentives for integrated tourism complexes.-