Increasing connections: Development plans for Musandam are expected to focus on tourism

  • The Report: Oman 2012 | Tourism

    With some 70% of the population living in and around Muscat, ensuring the development of Oman’s rural areas continues to be a focus for the government. Boosting tourism in a number of the Sultanate’s far-flung regions is an integral part of the government’s long-term plan to increase economic prosperity throughout the country. Salalah, located in Dhofar, has been the primary beneficiary of this strategy so far. Over the past few years, however, the government has centred its efforts on the Musandam peninsula, an 1800-sq-km spit of land that is separated from the rest of Oman by the UAE. Musandam, which is famous for its unique geography, features fjord-like valleys, a pristine coastline and stark, mountainous inland areas, all of which could be major tourist magnets.
    Until fairly recently the tourism sector on the peninsula was relatively undeveloped, largely because it was a challenge to travel from Muscat to Khasab, the capital of Musandam. A number of infrastructure upgrades and new transport services have made the region more accessible over the past decade, however, which has resulted in a steadily growing local tourism industry. Today Musandam has several high- and medium-end hotels and resorts from which a number of tourists explore the region’s unique attractions.
    GETTING THERE: Tourists who wish to visit Musandam have a variety of travel options. By road, the peninsula is about five hours from Muscat via the UAE. In 2008 the National Ferries Company (NFC), a government-owned enterprise, launched a high-speed ferry service from Muscat to Khasab, which makes the 465-km trip in just over five hours. The company has two ferries, each of which has capacity for 208 passengers and 56 cars. Soon after the service was launched, the NFC expanded the Muscat-Khasab route to include stops at Shinas, on Oman’s northern coast, and Limah, on Musandam’s south-east coast.
    Oman Air offers daily flights from Muscat to Khasab Airport, a one-hour trip. In 2010 the government contracted Oficina de Proyectos, a Spanish aviation firm, to develop a master plan for a new greenfield airport in the region, which will be built to handle large planes – including Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s – in an effort to attract additional flights. The terminal will be able to handle 250,000 passengers per year.
    NEW STRATEGY: In mid-May 2011 the government announced that it was in the process of drawing up a new development strategy for Musandam, and a ministerial committee carried out a series of visits to the peninsula, including interviews with regional leaders and public figures. The plan is expected to feature a major tourism component. Additionally, the initiative will likely include a substantial number of major infrastructure upgrades, which could have a major knock-on effect on local tourism development. Initial reports about the project include mentions of a new road between Khasab, the capital, and Bukha, a major port town on the peninsula’s west coast. Expanding the port at Khasab will also likely be a major component of the initiative.
    LODGING OPTIONS: As of the end of 2010, there were six hotels in Musandam, including two properties from international hotel chain Golden Tulip – one in Khasab and one in Dibba, on the north-east tip of the peninsula – and the recently launched Six Senses Zighy Bay, a five-star resort developed and managed by Six Senses Resorts and Spas, a Thailand-based firm. Launched in 2007, Zighy Bay consists of 82 villas in a traditional Omani style, each of which is connected to an individual infinity-style pool. The resort, which aims to attract high-end leisure visitors, has had a positive effect on Musandam’s reputation as a luxury travel destination.
    The government is also working to boost the number of hotels in Musandam. The Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran), the government's tourism development and investment arm, recently launched a tender for the Khasab Hotel, a resort located in the regional capital. The project, which is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2013, will include 80 rooms, 30 suites, a swimming pool, a health club, a dive centre and a variety of additional leisure facilities.