Saturday, August 19, 2006

in reply to an article

In an article that was published in the Oman Tribue & the Al Watan today, an Omani writer was asking why there was a lack of Omani tourism focused restaurants when the Sultanate has all the landscapes and the natural wealth that no country in the Gulf region has to pocess or boast about.

This is the full article:

"Muscat needs more classy restaurants

By Mustafa Al Ma’amari

MUSCAT World-class restaurants and cafés offering a wide range of food recipes are a key factor in the development of tourism, but Muscat is still lagging in this respect.

Lack of such food outlets along the capital’s long shores is seen as a negative factor, despite the enormous efforts made by the government or the private sector to boost tourism in the Sultanate.

Muscat Municipality has opened a number of these restaurants to meet the growing demand for outing and entertainment services in the city.

Restaurants and cafés can be seen along the beach from Al Qurum to Al Seeb, but tourism experts believe that the performance of such outlets is still far from satisfactory.

Several other countries, which lack large, beautiful and clean beaches like the Sultanate, have managed to find a place on the world’s tourism map through investments in such outlets. Some of them are even international brands capable of attracting tourists and visitors.

Regular parties and shows have also helped these outlets to expand their business in those countries. But the question is how much experience Oman has gained?

Despite the incentives offered by the government to the private sector to invest in this sector, the desire for quick profits has turned most of the investors away from this business. Muscat has always been the centre of focus for tourism in the Sultanate because of its population and large number of government and private offices and companies.

But the residents, who include a sizeable number of expatriates, need better services or something that is at least equal to what is being offered in other parts of the region."

Source: Oman Tribune

I am just wondering at how the article writer even thinks that tourism is built upon establishing world-class restaurants along the long shores of any country when it is eco-tourism that the Sultanate of Oman is focussing on; namely establishing a tourism industry without exploiting the environmental surroundings (?).

It is true that there is a high demand for world-class tourism restaurants in the Sultanate but there are plenty of empty spaces in Muscat all around for world-class establishment to start off with the help of local investors and international partners. Which leads me to the next point that Mr. Al Maamari points out on how the Muscat Muncipality is 'helping out' with the establishments to start off.

Truth to be told, although the government does offer land and discounted payments on tourism projects to be held on Omani soil and no taxes for a period of 5 years, it does however start off hefty taxes the moment that point does start off with taxes reaching now upto 24% (15% of which belongs to the Muncipality) and this you may have begun to notice in many different cafe's and restaurants that you used to go to and how they ask you for some change when you have to pay the bill. Not only that, but the amount of beuaracy that you would have to go through to just establish yourself as a business in the tourism industry and the payments you end up giving off monthly and yearly are quite extravagent in comparison to other GCC countries (and I don't mean here the UAE Emirate; Dubai in specific).

I also wonder which experts did Mustafa end up consulting on these points when we all know that the only experts that the government had employed to consult to establish tourism industrial area was way back when they were trying to decide on which area should they concentrate on so it would give a boost to the industry on what type of projects should end up being established (?).

On the question of how much experience has the Sultanate of Oman has gained in maintaining shows I would have to agree with the Mustafa. As Muscat Muncipality keeps repeating the same mistakes over and over again with it's annual Muscat Festival Festival by ending up with a deficit in their festival budget.

In the end, I do appreciate Mr. Mustafa Al Maamari's stance in the article but one must also understand the whole picture before tackling it..