Oman’s first waterpark has opened to the public, kicking off a series of tourist-focused developments in the country as its rulers strive to diversify the national economy.
Called Hawana Aqua Park, the 35,000sq m (378,000sq ft) OMR5m (US$13m, €10.8m, £9.6m) development by James Cubitt and Partners Abu Dhabi features a selection of water rides, including a lazy river, wave pool, spa pool and slides.
A further 30,000sq m (376,000sq ft) of space is dedicated to a food court, shopping area and car park.
Work on the landmark project started in March 2016 and was completed for a soft launch in December last year.
Following the waterpark’s official opening, a second phase of development will see it further expanded to include six different types of watersports, as well as vast green areas.
The brainchild of the Sultanate’s tourism investment arm, Omran, the opening ceremony also marked the launch of the Souly Camp luxury eco huts and the extensions of Fanar Hotel & Residences and Salalah Rotana Resort.
“This plan was part of our commitment to not just improve the tourism offerings that Oman has and to increase the number of international tourists, but to also provide more facilities for local tourists within Oman,” said Omran CEO Peter Walichnowski.
“Hawana is part of that plan because this attraction will be visited not just by foreign tourists, but also by those in the Sultanate, and the locals in the Dhofar region.”
The development is part of what is the largest tourist development in Oman – Hawana Salalah. Overseen by real estate developer Muriya, the resort will house 900 bedrooms across seven hotels.
The destination is also home to a 171 berth marina, freehold residences, retail venues, restaurants and cafés.
Oman’s National Strategy for Tourism 2040 includes a six per cent rise in tourism contributions and a near-doubling of visitor numbers to five million annually.
“These figures will be achieved by promoting Oman as a year-round destination for tourists – with water sports, mountain escapades and luxury hotels included in a new summer campaign designed for visitors from the UAE and Saudi Arabia,” said Maitha Al Mahrouqi, undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism, speaking to Attractions Management in 2017.
“Oman is certainly in a position to capitalise on events taking place in the region by offering tourists a seamless and hassle-free multi-centre holiday.
"Over 2,000 new hotel rooms opened in 2016 alone and Oman will have the capacity to welcome tourists from Dubai and Qatar following the Expo and World Cup.”