Muscat: The Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC), which is expected to open in 2016, has the potential to turn Oman into a major hub for business tourism, according to the officials involved in the construction of the centre.
There has been a lack of the required facilities to host large events in Oman in the past, but this project will help promote Oman as a convention hub, Wael Al Lawati, chief executive officer of Omran, told Times of Oman.
He made the remarks on Sunday on the sidelines of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) Advisory Summit 2014, the first in a series of industry engagement sessions in preparation for the opening of the venue. Al Lawati said that at the peak of the construction phase, 12,000 workers will be working.
According to an independent study, up to 20,000 jobs, including direct jobs, will be created after the completion of the centre, he added.
He also said that the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will benefit a lot from the development of the project and there are programmes underway to introduce them to the opportunities and encourage them to get international certificates.
Asked about the status of the project, Omran's chief executive officer said that the exhibition halls are under construction and the exhibit auditorium is under the tendering process. "We have opened two bids for the five-star and the four-star hotels, and we hope to award them by mid this year.
Infrastructure development is progressing on site," he added.
"The mall is under design, and we hope to move to the construction stage by early next year. The Omantel headquarters, which is going to be in the OCEC business part is under design and construction is expected to start at the beginning of next year."
Diversification of economy
Trevor McCartney, general manager at OCEC, said that the project is critical in diversification programme because business tourists will spend an average 3 to 5 times more than leisure tourists. "So by bringing business tourists into Oman for conventions, for exhibitions and other events, we will generate more revenue for the local economy and create more jobs."
Oman is a relatively new destination for business tourism and the convention centre will make the country more competitive, McCartney said. He added that the construction will be completed around the second half of 2015.
"We will then start training our people and we will have our first commercial events starting in early 2016. Then the last part, which is the convention centre with the auditorium for 3,200 plus all the meeting rooms will be complete towards the end of 2016."
Commenting on how SMEs will benefit from the construction of such a centre, he said, "Wherever possible, we will use local Omani companies at supply. We will need people to supply food items, fish, meat, flowers, print, and design. There is a whole range of services and products that we will need as a convention centre."
Sherrif Karamat, chief operating officer at PCMA, said that the new convention centre will not only be a hub for conventions and meetings but also a hub to create other industries, thought leadership, and scientific progress in Oman.
"What I like about Oman is that they have learned from the mistakes the people have made, and they have taken methodical approach to their strategy of developing the convention centre, which is very conducive to being attractive to convention meetings and business events," he said.
He added that more efforts should be made to promote Oman in the world given the country's great potential especially through the branding campaign of the country and not only through trade shows.
"Oman is an absolutely beautiful country, but until I came to Oman 18 months ago, I had no idea of the beauty. I had no idea of the safety and the welcoming Omani people," added Karamat. That story should be told and that story needs a greater awareness, he noted.
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