(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) Established in Oman in 2006 as a joint venture between Egypt's Orascom Hotels & Development (with a 70 per cent stake) and Omran (with the remaining 30 per cent), Muriya pioneers new tourism developments in the sultanate, including its ambitious Jebel Sifah and Salalah Beach projects.
In an interview with Muscat Daily, CEO Hamza Selim spoke about the Jebel Sifah and Salalah Beach destinations, the progress on them, future developments and marketing and sales.What are your major priorities for the Jebel Sifah and Salalah Beach projects this year?
We have a new set of priorities for this year. Our top priority for the next six months remains to speed up and finish the work that was delayed during the past two years.
For Jebel Sifah, we want to clear the backlog and ensure the handing over of a vast majority of the units (apartments and villas) by end of June this year. We are also targeting completing six holes of the 18-hole PGA golf course and infrastructure at Jebel Sifah.
For Salalah Beach, we just celebrated the opening of the 400-room Salalah Rotana Resort.What are the main features of Muriya's projects that have set them apart from other destinations in the region?
Our projects are different from the ITCs by nature and they include elements of real estate, hotels, golf and marinas. These are the four elements in all our projects within and outside Oman. These projects are not resorts, but resort-type towns where life is as it should be. What makes them unique is how we operate these towns. We develop privately managed towns and that is the major difference in what we offer to the people from other ITCs.How many units have been handed over to clients so far at Jebel Sifah and Salalah Beach?
We have handed over six villas and 76 apartments at Jebel Sifah and 11 villas and 68 apartments at Salalah Beach. In all, we have handed over a total of 161 units at both destinations.How has the buyer/investor interest been in both tourism destinations?
Earlier, there was a period when buyers (the end-users and investors) were showing less interest in our products at both Jebel Sifah and Salalah Beach. This was mainly due to the fact that we were not continuing the projects as per the initial plan.
However, since both projects are now progressing well and we are refreshing the look of these projects, clients and investors have started to show confidence again. We are seeing good momentum in new sales from investors as well as end-users. I would say the results are good, but not remarkable. We are assuming that the second half of the year we will begin witnessing remarkable results in new sales.What is your marketing strategy to lure investors?
The marketing strategy for hotels and tourism destinations is different from general real-estate marketing. We first conduct extensive research to identify potential markets and buyers. We understand that the client-mix is different for Jebel Sifah and Salalah Beach and that is why we have separate research for both to identify the markets and potential clients. We have signed on to get good quality services from brokerages and are introducing sales agents in the potential markets to bring in investors to visit these destinations. We have a very strong team behind our initiatives.
We do not consider any other ITC project as our competitor as our products are completely different from their products. We are developing towns not compounds, our approach is totally different from other ITCs.The first phase of development has been completed by Muriya. What is the progress on the second phase at both projects?
The first phase has already ended and we begun the second phase in the beginning of this year.
At Salalah Beach, two five-star hotels will be developed in the second phase, as also an 18-hole golf course with surrounding real estate. We have already commenced the ground work for the first hotel. We will soon start on the real estate around the golf course. The golf course will be ready within two-and-a-half years from now. I can say, within the next three years from now, we will have completed the second phase at Salalah Beach.
At Jebel Sifah, we will start work on two more hotels in phase two. In the next three years, we will complete two more hotels, the golf course and the real estate around it at Jebel Sifah. Our projects are developing towns and we do not stop the development process.Has there been any impact on Muriya's operations owing to the Arab Spring and the global financial crisis?
As far as the Arab Spring is concerned, I do not see any impact on the Muriya projects. However, there was some effect felt due to the global financial crisis.What is your view on Oman's tourism sector outlook?
I have a very positive outlook on Oman's tourism sector. It takes years of hard work to develop the tourism sector and Oman is moving in the right direction. There has been a big improvement in the tourism sector in the past ten years in Oman. We are very positive on how tourism is going to be developed in the next five to ten years. As we see lots of developments in Salalah, the place will see a major change over the next ten years. Salalah Beach is going to be a major addition to Salalah in terms of tourism.Recently, Orascom's chairman made an announcement on acquiring stakes in two leading German tour operators. How do you think this move will help Muriya?
The acquisition will target a new market to promote the Jebel Sifah and Salalah Beach resorts. The directions have already been given to the charters. The German charters are a major contributor to tourism in Salalah. This acquisition will multiply the number of tourists as much as possible.