50 working papers being discussed at Responsible Tourism conference in Oman

24 countries attend event that tackles key aspects of tourism in sultanate

Oman to launch comprehensive strategy to develop civil aviation

6 new airports to refresh air transport activities

Tourism industry will have to meet the challenges of providing quality infrastructure and services ahead of demand, according to Her Excellency Dr Rajha Bint Abdulameer Bin Ali, Minister of Tourism.

In her inaugural speech at the 4th international conference on ‘Responsible Tourism in Destinations: Living landscapes of Oman,’ Rajha said that scarce natural resources, climate changes, impacts of biodiversity, environment and resource preservation are also some of the major challenges before the tourism industry.

She said that the principles and foundations of sustainable tourism have always been fundamental to Oman’s tourism industry. “The Tourism Ministry, in collaboration with the respective government bodies, is trying to preserve natural and biological heritage. It has provided opportunities to maintain our rich cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. It is also helping in job creation in the sector, boosting small to medium enterprises, and helping local communities,” she said.

She pointed out that the Ministry of Tourism is preparing a national plan for sustainable tourism in cooperation with the UNWTO, government authorities and private sector.

The three-day conference is being organised by the Tourism Ministry in collaboration with the International Centre for Responsible Tourism at Leeds Metropolitan University. It is being held under the auspices of HE Sayyid Hamoud Bin Faisal Al Busaidi, Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs.

Hamod Al Busaidi said the conference will help in the efforts for creating sustainable and responsible tourism which is important in view of the modern developments in the world.

“It also affirms the Sultanate’s effective role and its support to the efforts of the international community to raise awareness on the importance of safeguarding the natural areas and provide suitable mechanisms to develop them,” he said.

Amr Abdel Ghaffar, WTO Regional Manager in the Middle East and representative of secretary general of the UNWTO, said last year during the global economic recession almost a billion tourists made international trips throughout the world spending $852 billion. This does not include their spending on air fares or domestic tourism. If domestic tourism is taken into consideration, the estimates will become five times higher, more than five billion tourists and more than four trillion dollars, he said.

He said that stakeholders must be brought together to reach a common understanding of the balance between present and future benefits, between conservation and development and to create win-win strategies that will make optimal use of environmental resources, respect the socio-cultural heritage and traditional values of host communities and provide socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders, he said.

HE Mohammed Bin Hamoud Al Toobi, Undersecretary at the Tourism Ministry, said that the conference would review the output of more than 50 working papers by 28 lecturers from different countries including 16 working papers from the Sultanate.

Meanwhile, The proposed new terminal at Muscat International Airport would be completed by 2014 and have the capacity to handle 12 million passengers annually. Further expansions planned in three subsequent phases will ultimately boost the airport’ capacity to 48 million passengers by 2050.

The project program is to have the new control tower and second runway completed and operational by the end of 2013, and the passenger terminal and other buildings by the end of 2014.

The new Muscat International Airport would feature a new passenger terminal building with 32 boarding air bridges, a second runway, control tower, cargo terminal to handle 200,000 tons of cargo annually and a car parking capacity for 6,000 cars. The passenger terminal, a grandiose structure incorporating a blend of modern international class airport design elements and Omani traditional motifs, will be built between the two parallel runways.

The new terminal building will have a net floor area of 290,000 sqm and a capacity for 12 million passengers a year. Shopping arcades, restaurants, cafes, elegant lounges, and an 80 bed airside hotel for transfer passengers are also envisaged. The airport will also feature a 101 meter high control tower and a new Air Traffic Management Centre.

The project has been designed to allow for the airport to expand its capacity size for up to 48 million passengers annually, a second passenger terminal building planned in the next phase which will be linked to the first via a system of high speed trains.

Furthermore, the existing runway at Muscat International Airport will be upgraded and supplemented with a new runway. It will be able to handle the world's largest passenger plane, the Airbus A380.

The project also includes a motorway to the airport with three lanes in either direction, complete with a companion interchange feeding into the existing motorways.

One of the great challenges in building the new airport in Muscat is to provide adequate drainage of the area, it seldom rains in Oman, but when it does, it pours. Cars and roads get swept away as water cascades down the mountains behind Muscat in great quantities and on into the Gulf of Oman.

One of the areas the rainwater passes to get to the sea is the stretch of land on which the new runway will be as it is a flat, low-lying area, separated from the ocean only by a coastal road, where water can stagnate in the shallowest spots after powerful but short-lived downpours.

As the first part of the project the grounds are raised by three meters to prevent the new runway and the new roads ending up under water, this is being done by driving 10-12 million cu.m of desert sand and crushed rock onto the site.

In order to protect the rest of the airport site from flood surges, as well as a nearby development of luxury residential properties, one of the first steps in the building process was to install three giant outlets, or culverts, to the Bay of Oman. The three culverts will have a combined capacity of 500 cu.m water a second.

There are two ongoing land filling contracts for the new airport site:

Embankments and main access road into the airport passenger terminal including facilities, commercial area and the headquarters of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation & Meteorology.

New runway, taxiway, Passenger Terminal Building, Internal roadways and staging area for storage of sand from the sea.

A third separate contract will be for dredging of sand from the sea which will be used to raise all remaining areas to higher levels.

In January 2005, the government of the Sultanate of Oman awarded a contract to a joint venture consortium between Cowi & Larsen Architects and Consulting Engineering for the design and supervision of the new terminals at Muscat International Airport and Salalah Airport. The proposed new terminal at both Airports will come in line with the government’s commitment to establish infrastructure facilities that can keep pace with the world markets.

July 2006, French Engineering and Infrastructure specialist Airport de Paris Ingenierie (ADPi) was awarded the prestigious contract to provide project management consultancy services linked to the development of Muscat International Airport and Salalah Airport.

The Paris-based group of Architects and Engineers specializes in the design of passenger terminals, cargo terminals, control towers and aircraft hangars. In Oman, ADPi will be supported by National Engineering Services Pakistan & Partners (NESPAK), a leading Engineering Consultancy which has undertaken the design and supervision of a number of major infrastructure projects within the Sultanate.

On the other hand, The Sultanate’s national carrier will add six Boeing Dreamliners to its fleet starting from 2014, said Oman Air general manager marketing Abdul Razzaq Al Raisi.

The world’s second-biggest commercial-aircraft maker, Boeing, will start the delivery of ordered Dreamliners from 2014, two every second year, said Al Raisi while attending the Holy Month of Ramadan evening program organized by the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI).

The national carrier, who is in an expansion mode, will also add Brazilian aerospace conglomerate’s Embraer aircraft to its fleet, added Al Raisi.

Raisi said that Oman Air will start its long awaited Muscat-Dammam, Saudi Arabia, daily services from early September.

The carrier will also fly four times a week to Katmandu, Nepal, and Milan.

According to him, during the last two years, the national carrier has increased the number of its commercial planes, while adding new destinations to its map.

The carrier has recently under gone a facelift as a part of its growth plan, by changing its look, uniform of its employees and logo, he said.

Al Raisi said the Oman Air has seven aircraft as part of its Boeing 737 fleet. Apart from this the company is also providing ATR services to various oil companies in the Sultanate. Al Raisi also said that Oman Air was one of the world’s first aviation companies which allow the use of mobile phones as well as Internet facilities.

He said that the number of first class as well as executive class seats in the Oman Air flights have been increased significantly.

On the future plans of Oman Air, Raisi said that the company has become one of the best aviation companies of the world and has been representing the Sultanate around the world, including Far East, Europe, Indian subcontinent and other countries in the region.

The national carrier of Oman will also increase its domestic services as the Sultanate is poised to open five new airports.