To what extent has the government of Oman prioritized investment in aviation infrastructure? How closely aligned are Oman Air’s growth and investment plans to those of the government?
PEARCE: There is tremendous growth taking place in civil aviation in Oman. The government is developing a series of new airports and investing very considerably in the national airport in Muscat, where there is a massive new terminal being built by the second runway. I think both of these will be wonderful for the development of the infrastructure of the country. This will also enable growth in business, and the general development of the nation. There is also a similar investment structure taking place in Salalah, the major terminal and airport in the south. In addition to that there are a series of other airports being developed with considerable investment to improve the infrastructure of the nation.
In what ways does the growth and development of Oman’s aviation sector enable other economic activity?
PEARCE: The most extraordinary thing about Oman is the size of the country to begin with. It is bigger than the United Kingdom, and almost the size of Germany. It has 1,700km of beaches, and an incredible variety of topography and climates. While it can be summer here in Muscat, it can be 20 degrees and raining in the south. This offers enormous opportunities for the development of tourism in this nation, far greater than anywhere else in the region. I think as Oman Air grows, we will see a great deal of development throughout the country. The development won’t only be in Muscat and Salalah, but in the mountainous regions, which are high enough to get snow in the winter. There is enormous potential for tourism in this country, and Oman air aims to be the litmus that creates this growth.
Oman is currently building six new airports. How is Oman Air preparing to cater to this increase in capacity and demand?
PEARCE: Oman Air currently has 30 aircraft, and we have another 20 on order. We have 6 Boeing 787s, 3 more A330-300s, the large version, and 11 737s coming. Some of those will be the 900 version, which is also the bigger aircraft. This big increase in capacity will augment our current fleet. We will be able to operate in a greater frequency to places that are in high demand at the moment. We will be adding new destinations as well. The combination of very long aircraft able to fly for more than four hours will make a huge increase in the size of Oman Air. 5 years ago we were a small regional carrier, and now we are on our way to transforming into a very large airline representing the Gulf. This will facilitate huge growth in Oman’s tourism and business infrastructure.
Where do you see opportunity for private investment in, or related to, the aviation sector in Oman?
PEARCE: Oman Air’s great growth started back in 2008. It is perhaps not as quick as other Gulf carriers, but the rate we have grown at is over 20% during the last couple of years, and that has brought enormous growth to the development of the nation. We have seen huge growth in tourism, and this has facilitated business development. I see a lot of people around the world in Europe, the Gulf, and the Indian sub-continent recognizing Oman as a truly great tourist destination, and I think you will see a great wave of people looking to take advantage of that. One of the most interesting things recently is people’s increased awareness of Salalah. We have started to get other carriers to fly into Salalah, as well as what we do ourselves. Between Muscat and Salalah in 2013, we will carry 500,000 people. A lot of those are Omanis, but we are seeing a tremendous increase in interests from places like the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. I feel in 10 years time Salalah will almost be looked upon as the Maldives of the Gulf. It has a huge tourist potential. I must be careful to not leave out the rest of Oman though, because there are numerous other places that have potential to develop as well, including Khasab in the north, which is a beautiful mountain region with fjords like Norway. It has a different climate of course, but I feel it will become incredibly popular with tourists from Europe, the Gulf, and the other GCC countries.
Oman has a lot of incredible strengths. One of them is the very strong GDP growth. That means there is prosperity here. People have jobs. If people want to set up companies, there is a capable, well-educated labor force. The other thing we have to be aware of is the government under His Majesty’s guidance provides an enormous amount of investment in the infrastructure of the nation. All you have to do is drive around, and you will see road systems expanding, a brand new airport terminal, another runway, and an incredible backing of the nations ability to succeed in the future. It is a great place for people to invest and a great place for people to visit.
Oman Air CEO Wayne Pearce on Oman’s rapidly expanding aviation infrastructure is originally published by and copyright of The Prospect Group.