Attracting tourists to Oman
When tourists decide to come to Oman from Johannesburg, Montreal, Havana or Stockholm, they hope to discover something that they have not seen before. Oman, part of the Middle East, has a long history of Islamic architecture and Middle Eastern tradition. It is said that ‘hospitality’ was created in the Middle East and not in London, or New York. How much of this have we been able to conserve?
Most hotels in Oman are copies of buildings in Europe, the US or the far-East. None of them offers an Omani identity. What could be the elements which would help create this identity?
When you enter a hotel, the reception should be a small counter where you make the first contact, and then you are led to a small room, where you mention your particular requests, the type of breakfast or food, etc, before you are shown to the type of room that you have selected.
You are not a client but a guest. Your information are confidential and other guests are not supposed to know about your request. You should be treated as if you were the only guest of the hotel.
The room would have a nicely designed door with a smaller door next to it, from where the employees would collect your laundry without ringing at your door. Typically in the Middle East in the past, spaces had no furniture and the storage areas were recesses on the walls. The ceiling should be higher than the standard European rooms, with some wooden features that can be seen in many forts of Oman. The floor should be simply designed with some rugs fabricated in the country with typical Omani motives. The artwork on the walls have to make you feel that you are in Oman.
Bathrooms have a long history and need proper attention. The tiles, the marbles, the mirror-work, the lighting, all have to contribute to make you feel that you are in another country. The manner in which food is served in the restaurants and coffee shops should be unique and should describe the local character. Serving Omani coffee in a proper manner would be much nicer when the area is purposely designed for. Windows should have a coloured glass border, like in the past to prevent the arrival of mosquitos – as it was created in Yemen, centuries ago.
The corridors leading to the rooms should be perceived as an exhibition place, where you can see objects, artwork, whilst walking to the rooms. Omani students can get an opportunity to display their artworks. They should be changed quite often to ensure that frequent guests discover something new every time they come.
In simple words when the design and the operation of the hotel is done with pride and love for the local culture of the country guests will be delighted to discover a new way of looking at Oman.
Tourists today prefer going camping rather than using hotels. Redefining the way the culture is presented will attract much more tourists and contribute to the diversification of the economy.
Oman is not Dubai or Manama, and needs therefore to show that it has a long history, was on the Silk-Road, and is ideally located in the heart of the Middle East with deserts, mountains and more than 1800km of shores.
Saleh Miri, Muscat Daily Columnist, IS an architect who came to Oman in the early 1980S