Muscat: Saraya Bandar Jissah will be the first Integrated Tourism Complex (ITC) to be launched in seven years in Oman, contributing to the Sultanate's plans to become a tourist destination.
Jumeirah Group, the global hotel company and a member of Dubai Holding, recently signed the management agreement with Saraya Bandar Jissah. The Times of Oman met with the Saraya Bandar Jissah Chief Executive Officer, Sheikh Hamood bin Sultan Al Hosni.
Appointed as CEO in 2008 and the first member of staff in an ever expanding team, it is clear that he takes great pride in the development. "It's like bringing a child into the world where you become very protective and only want the best for the child. I am very passionate about our development and proud of the team assembled over the last six years.
"We might not have been in the public eye during this period but we have been busy getting the project to the stage we are at now. The market place has changed since the last ITC project was launched in 2007. We have completed all the design work for our project, gained the necessary approvals and are underway with construction."
The Ministry of Tourism introduced ITC projects with the focus on bringing international hotel operators to Oman plus allowing an investor from any nationality to purchase a 100 per cent freehold property inside the development.
With Saraya Bandar Jissah promoted as 'Oman's newest luxury address', located to the east of Muscat, the site is complemented by its two neighbours, the Al Bustan Palace Hotel and the Shangri-La Resort and Spa, boasting spectacular topography created by the Al Hajar Mountains merging with the Sea of Oman.
Sheikh Hamood said, "With nothing launched in a long time, there has been a stagnant period but signs are very encouraging, particularly over the last six months to a year.
"We believe the launch of a new project will give the local real estate market new impetus and as we are most likely to be the next ITC to be launched, we need to make sure it is done right. It is also important as the country is looking to move into tourism and increase its gross domestic product (GDP) through tourism, these projects create that platform."
Saraya Bandar Jissah is a partnership between the Government of Oman's tourism development and investment arm – Omran – and Saraya Oman.
"They are both fully committed and the project is currently funded from the equity contribution of the two shareholders with a total capital of OMR50 million, making it one of the largest tourism projects currently underway in Oman," said Sheikh Hamood.
"We have also worked very closely with the government. All the ministries have been hugely supportive of this project all the way through, allowing us to gain the necessary permits and approvals to progress as planned."
Sheikh Hamood added, "Many will be aware through the constant news updates released by the company that the project is making big strides since starting on site back in August 2012.
"NCC were the first contractors appointed and are nearing the end of their contract and more recently Carillion Alawi were awarded the infrastructure package with Atkins appointed for supervision services to the infrastructure.
"This, however, is only the start of the appointments with the first hotel contract awarded but not announced yet and the largest residential zone close to being awarded. We have also already tendered the second hotel, two further residential zones and the staff accommodation."
Saraya Bandar Jissah, which was recently awarded the Best Mixed-use Development in Oman, is spread over 2.2 square kilometres but will only develop 20 per cent of the land in order to maintain the natural beauty of the site.
Jumeirah Group was announced back in December as the operator of both the five star beachfront hotels.
Jumeirah Group currently operates 22 luxury hotels and serviced apartments, including 11 in the Gulf region, six in Euro