Majarat of Oman park. Image Credit: COURTESY: Ministry of Tourism Oman

Muscat: Omanis may no longer have to drive long distances or fly to other Gulf countries to enjoy recreational activities, after Oman has stepped up efforts to boost its tourism sector.

Oman will soon open its first, state-of-the art waterpark the Barka province. The 40-million-riyal water park, Majarat Oman, is set to accommodate over 1,200 visitors daily.

Another water park in Salalah will be completed by 2017 and will accommodate 500 visitors daily.

The construction of an additional three water parks was also recently announced by Tourism Minister Ahmad Al Meherzi.

A recreational city is also set to be built in Seeb province.

The ambitious projects are expected to boost finances for the country, suffering from unemployment due to a slump in oil prices, and will help provide job opportunities for Omanis.

Yousuf Al Balushi, a member at the Economic Committee at Oman’s Advisory Council and representative of Shinas province in the council, encourages other private companies to invest in such projects in all governorates.

“Many Omanis used to spend their holidays in neighboring countries, driving for long distances, adding to that, the perils of the road accidents, however, with such new projects, many of them will spend his or her holiday inside the country,” Al Balushi told Gulf News.

Rashid Al Mashani, an economic expert, told Gulf News, that millions of riyals will be spent inside the country, which will boost the economic movement instead of spending that outside the country.

Al Mashani pointed out that building more water parks and recreational centres will attract more tourists from outside.

Ahmed Al Hashmi, a father, welcomes the move, describing it as a successful step to push the tourism wheels forward.

Al Hashmi added that building animal zoos also will add more to the fun, as Oman lacks to big zoos, lead many families to travel outside the country for that.

Jamal Al Abri, Ibri resident, told Gulf News that he will stay in Oman when the water parks and other recreational centres have completed.

“I will choose Oman rather than travelling outside”, said Al Abri.

United Arab Emirates is one of the major destinations for Omanis as it very close and has lots of entrainment options.

More than one million Omani nationals and residents visited United Arab Emirates in 2015 alone, according to local media reports.

Meanwhile, Ahmed Al Meherzi, Minister of Tourism said that the total investments expected for tourism sector during the upcoming years exceed one billion riyals, according to Oman News Agency (ONA),

By 2020, Oman hopes to have over 20,000 rooms in various 3 to 5 star hotels Oman.

In 25 years, it hopes to have 50,000 rooms available.

Al Meherzi said that the National Strategy for Tourism 2040, which includes a 6 per cent rise in the contribution of the tourism sector to the gross domestic product (GDP) and a target of five million visitors by 2040, nearly double today’s level of 2.6 million visitors.

He explained that the strategy aims to increase the contribution of the private sector in tourism projects to 88 per cent, and government investment, which includes infrastructure projects, at 12 per cent.

Of the 2.6 million visitors that arrived in Oman last year, GCC nationals topped the numbers at 1.06 million, while Indians came second at 299,661, followed by the British (150,902), and Germans (106,269), according to the Tourism Report 2015 published by the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI).