H E Ahmed bin Nasser al Mehrzi, Minister of Tourism, said on Monday, “Under this initiative, the first site to be managed by a private company will be Nizwa Fort. We want to rely on Omani professionals to revive historical life, which is well represented in these castles and forts.”
He added that MoT has had an agreement with the ministries of Finance and Heritage and Culture to rope in the private sector to manage and invest in castles and forts of the sultanate. This is not the first time the ministry is thinking of handing over historical sites to the private sector.
In 2014, the ministry was in advance stage of talks with a Spanish company, Paradores Consultancy, an arm of Spain’s prominent luxury hotel chain Paradores de Turismo de España which runs 94 hotels set in palaces, fortresses and historical buildings.
The plan then was to transform Oman’s forts and castles into luxury heritage hotel properties. Previous to that Oman and Spain had signed a contract to conduct a comprehensive study on developing forts and castles into heritage-style hotels.
While also in 2014, Omran (MoT’s investment arm) had restructured into three subsidiaries, namely the Oman Heritage Development Company (Thurathana), the Oman Project Management and Development Company (Bunyan) and the National Omani Hospitality Company (Dhiaffa). Thurathana was set up to initiate and manage tourism programmes and projects for cultural and natural heritage sites in Oman.
It was mandated to develop and improve visitor experiences in forts, castles, caves and other natural sites including management and development of associated facilities and programmes. It is also aimed to develop new sites for tourism, like conversion of heritage sites to hotels.