As competition for the Laser Radial Women’s World Championships reaches a climax in Mussanah, representatives from the organising committee and key supporters hosted a press conference at the Oman Olympic Committee Headquarters to discuss the economic benefits that sailing and, in particular, hosting major international sailing events, brings to the Sultanate of Oman and its people.
The panel featured Salim Al Mamari, Director General of Tourism Promotion at the Ministry of Tourism; David Graham, Oman Sail CEO; Mohammed Al Shikely, Oman Air General Manager of Marketing; Jeff Martin, Executive Secretary of the International Laser Class Association at the International Sailing Federation; and Rashid Al Kindi, Chairman of Oman Sailing Association.
In seven years, Oman Sail has put the Sultanate of Oman on the international sailing map as a globally-recognised, high-quality venue for international sailing events. The organisation has established a reputation for excellence both ashore and on the water by successfully hosting some of the world’s most celebrated competitions, such as the RC44 Championships, the Extreme Sailing Series and a number of World Championships, including the Laser and RS:X class events, and the Laser Radial Women’s World Championships, currently taking place in Mussanah.
In doing so, Oman Sail is contributing to Oman’s travel and tourism sector, as David Graham points out: “Oman Sail serves as an extension of the Ministry of Tourism and applies its expertise to increase tourism to Oman using sailing as a platform to raise the country’s global profile as a high-end tourism destination.
“The sport of sailing has an impact on general tourism, marine tourism and sports event tourism. It is a fast-growing global industry with important travel and tourism related benefits and subsequent economic impact on host destinations. Sailing attracts international followers who comprise the upper-segment of the socio-economic sphere. These are Oman’s target tourism audience: wealthy and adventurous individuals who will appreciate the country’s beautiful environment,” he added.
Each event hosted by Oman Sail in the Sultanate of Oman attracts athletes, support teams, media attention, race organisers and fans. While in Oman, these visitors explore the country, and most tend to stay after the event for a holiday of discovery which generates both direct and indirect income for the country. The global media coverage of a high profile event delivers millions of Omani Rials in media value and adds to Oman’s reputation and attraction as a high-end destination for tourism. Each event also creates jobs and contributes to the ongoing skill development of the Omani people, thus contributing to the country’s socio-economic development. Hosting the RC44, ISAF annual conference, Laser World Championships and Extreme Sailing Series has generated more than 9,390 hotel bookings.
“Tourism is a key pillar of the national economy, and the sports tourism market is expanding rapidly. The economic impact of people in-bound to the country, using the national airline and staying at the hotels has the potential to be vast in the future. The events held here have already yielded positive results and each country represented has their own media broadcasting to specific markets and showing the capability of Oman,” said Salim Al Mamari.
“The development of state-of-the-art facilities in Oman are, year after year, attracting higher calibre events, more and more visitors, and enhancing Oman’s reputation within the global sporting community as a venue of choice and a suitable destination to host important events, which is strategically important for the Ministry of Tourism,” he added.
Speaking on Oman’s growing reputation on the international sailing circuit, Jeff Martin said, “The sailors are very happy to be here in Oman, the country offers great sailing, magnificent facilities in terms of accommodation and offshore facilities, and professional race management. There is nothing more we could ask for at a world sailing championship. If the Oman Sail programme continues the way it is, there is a very good chance we will see an Omani sailor at the Olympics in the future.”
Oman Air, the country’s national carrier, has also identified sailing as an excellent platform for raising awareness of the country, the brand and attracting travellers. The airline campaigns on the Extreme Sailing Series circuit, taking their brand to the heart of major cities around the globe and speaking directly to their key target tourism markets. In simple terms, the type of people attracted to sailing are the people that would be attracted to a four-star airline and an exciting, culturally unique, luxury adventure destination. As Official Airline of the Laser Radial Women’s World Championships, Oman Air has helped to connect competitors from around the world with the Sultanate.
Mohammed Al Shikely, Oman Air General Manager of Marketing, said “Competing on a major sailing circuit such as the Extreme Sailing Series opens doors for us – it enables us to speak directly to potential clientele and the brand exposure it gives us is vast.”
Today is a rest day for the Laser Radial Women’s World Championship fleet and – with the support of the Ministry of Tourism – the 100 competitors and their support staff from 50 different countries across five continents, will have the chance to experience the famous Omani hospitality and to explore the country for the day. Competition continues on Tuesday until Thursday, when the new World Champion will be crowned.
Having such a prestigious all-female fleet sailing Omani waters has not gone unnoticed by the growing Oman Sail Women’s Sailing Programme who have been watching, learning and aspiring as the competition has evolved.
“Oman is a pioneer in the region in giving Omani women an equal platform to compete through sailing and the legacy of hosting the World Championships will be evident in the progress of Oman’s own female sailors,” said David Graham.
“The wider impact of hosting major international competitions goes beyond sailing, indeed beyond sport. The eyes of the world are on Oman this week, we have a prime opportunity to push the country as a tourist destination, a business partner and showcase the Sultanate of Oman to the world.”