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Good tourism growth rates prompt Oman to fast track property projects

The Ministry of Tourism has been pleased with the reaction to its business incentives announced in April to attract more investment. These include tax exemptions for five years, interest free loans to partly foreign owned industrial and tourism projects, tax and import duty exemptions, no personal income tax and no foreign exchange controls.

A spokesman said the next move is to establish a public company or closed joint stock companies which will help implement projects as part of a fast track procedure. 'This will be supported by strict regulations and procedures, ensuring that foreign and local investors will receive equal venture benefits,' a spokesman said.

A number of small and medium sized tourism construction projects that have been fast tracked are now well underway. They include The Wave, a US$2 billion hotel resort and residential beachfront community, just 10 minutes away from Muscat, Oman's capital. It also includes an 18-hole Greg Norman signature golf course, a 300-berth marina, restaurants and retail outlets.

Other investments include the construction of three new regional airports, the provision of world-class entertainment recreational facilities and 24-hour services such as restaurants and strategic roadside stops for tourists travelling long distances. Muscat International Airport is also to undergo a multi-million redevelopment.

The World Tourism Organization has estimated that the Middle East and Arabian Gulf will see visitor arrivals grow by 7.6%, the only global region to enjoy double its growth in the tourism industry. In Oman growth has already exceeded expectations. Tourism growth increased by 19% in 2006 and by 9% in 2007 against an expected 7%.