Oman’s developing sport portfolio might not have stolen as many headlines as that of Saudi Arabia in 2018 but the Sultanate has quietly become one of the region’s most popular destinations for sports tourism. The varied landscape has made it the Middle East’s go-to place for outdoor pursuits and sport in Oman continues to grow in popularity.
HH Sayyid Taimur Badr Taimur Al-Said is among those tasked with showing companies the benefit of investing in Oman, with his company Oman International Business Development LLC dedicated to creating new commercial ties. Here he talks to Sport Industry Insider about Oman’s sporting development.
What does the current sporting landscape look like in Oman, where are the opportunities?
Oman is made up of different terrains, making it ideal for all kinds of different sporting events. Considering our rich maritime history – sailing, boating and various water sports are very popular all over the country, as well as other outdoor activities.
There is also strength in the equestrian and camel racing teams. The Royal Cavalry of Oman did great at the British racecourses this year – winning two first places at the British Chepstow races.
The roads and off-roading in Oman also make it ideal for biking and racing, while other opportunities include rally racing, wind surfing, biking, trekking and biking. Maybe in the future we will see more extreme sports, and who knows maybe wadi rafting too in the future.
We obviously have a number of elite events too like the Tour of Oman cycling and the NBO Golf Open, while next year we will host the 2019 IODA Asian and Oceanian Championship sailing at Mussanah Sports City.
How have world-class events like the golf and sailing helped visitor numbers?
Oman Sail, an NGO that opened in 2008 has done great over the last couple of years; it has hosted international events and even has a sailing school. In 2009, Oman Sail’s Mohsin Al Busaidi became the first Arab to sail around the world non-stop and Oman’s sailing team has won international awards. We have proven effective in competition, and I am sure that is reason enough to draw people to Oman for the challenge.
Golf is also growing popular year by year, the last NBO Golf Open at Al Mouj Golf Club in Muscar, which happened in February, was a whole new world for the stars of the European Tour. It is an incredible golf course overlooking the ocean and is the perfect place for golfers – both professional and amateur – during the winter.
Another world class even that is important and really put sport in Oman on the map is the Tour of Oman, which is one of its kind in the region. It’s a fantastic showcase of the Omani landscape for those cyclists taking part or people watching from afar.
All of these events will draw in sport fanatics from around the region, and in the future hopefully from all over the world.
How healthy is the sport sponsorship outlook in Oman?
Considering how popular Oman is for those who love the great outdoors, I truly believe Oman has a bright future when it comes to sport and sponsorship. There are still untapped sports that could grow more popular in Oman, so many different landscapes to explore, wadis to swim in. One of my favourites is Wadi Shab and Tastemade Travel did an amazing FB video about it.
But then there are also the existing sporting events, which with the right sponsorship and push could become some of the best in the MENA region. The golf and the Tour of Oman are obviously front and centre of our thinking here.
Most sporting events at the moment are sponsored by local business, sometimes by international companies, but I am hoping in the future sporting events here gain more international sponsorship.
The Sultanate prides itself in being a peaceful state, one known to have some of the most hospitable people in the world, what is not to love?
Which has the most potential in Oman: Elite events or mass participation events?
Oman is all about hospitality, companionship, partnership and community so participation events are big all over the country. There are many community events and races and maybe there could be more chance to invite people from the region to participate.
If you drive off-road anywhere in Oman and you will find a football pitch or a sports club in the most remote of places – it’s what makes Oman everyone’s favourite neighbour!
Elite events will continue to gain momentum in the near future and may steal the spotlight for some time but ideally I think a mix of both would be great and expose more people to the Sultanate.