Spread along a stunning 6km stretch of Muscat’s coastline, this world-class mixed-use community comprises luxury residential properties, retail and dining facilities and Oman’s only signature designed PGA Standard 18 hole links golf course, designed by Greg Norman, which was the recent winner of Gold Award for the Best Golf Course in the region at the MENA Travel Awards. The Wave, Muscat is also home to the 400 berth Almouj Marina, Oman’s largest private yachting hub. Mr Hawazen Esber, CEO of The Wave Muscat, task to Untied World about this impressive development and Oman’s tourist offerings
You have told us that The Wave is in the process of rebranding, positioning Oman as a lifestyle destination because you are confident of what you have here. However, if we were to compare Oman to other countries in the region, what could be done here to increase the attraction of visitors?
It is not fair to compare Oman to Dubai as they are completely different offerings. Oman is not aiming for a mass tourism focus like Dubai and North Africa. Oman has an authentic history and culture and Omani’s are dedicated to developing their country through traditional values, and that is a prime asset that needs to be marketed. There is a focus on developing new 4 and 5 star hotel infrastructure to attract visitors seeking more culturally authentic travel experiences rather than just beach and resort style tourism. As new facilities are developed, the beauty of Oman’s vast deserts, mountains, and marine parks will be more accessible. A key focus of what we are delivering at The Wave as a waterfront destination is the connection to Oman’s sea-faring heritage including boat building, sailing, diving and fishing. The platform we provide such as the marina, golf course, hotels and events venues gives other Omani companies and the Government the opportunity to expand and promote their tourism activities.
How can Oman attract the high spending tourist like in resorts in Asia for example?
Dubai’s growth as a world-class tourism city has had a major positive impact on how tourists view and understand the Middle East region and Oman has also made a significant contribution to this positive perception by engaging the hospitality of its people, richness of its culture and heritage and developing accessibility to its natural treasures. International tourists are developing an appetite for authentic experiences in Arab countries and Oman is working at many levels to take advantage of this. The abundance of opportunity which exists in Oman has attracted investor interest from around the world and this is being translated into higher quality hotels, spas and experience destinations being delivered by the private sector alongside the Government backed infrastructure investment in airports, rail links, and accessibility to tourism sites.
You’re an architect and engineer by trade - are you going to have any input to the style of new buildings?
Oman has a very unique architectural style influenced by tradition and the environment. Our master plan vision is to protect those genuine characteristics but express them in modern way to reflect the lifestyle of our residents. We do a lot of listening to our clients and analyzing how to provide what they want in their homes as efficiently and architecturally invigorating as possible. As the largest development in Oman, our job is to deliver a waterfront destination with outstanding lifestyle and leisure experiences through a sophisticated representation of the country in all our properties, public spaces and amenities.
Are you promoting any region partners to encourage cross-border tourism?
Our golf course recently won the Gold Award for the Best Golf Course in the region at the MENA Travel Awards and hosts the annual National Bank of Oman PGA Challenge Tour Golf Classic, which is promoted throughout the region and the world. A significant achievement for a golf course only two years old and a signature reinforcement of the quality of the course and its service offering. We also have a sister golf course in Germany called Schloss Miel just outside of Cologne and cross promote with Oman Air in their key destinations.
Our marina is the first in the region to be awarded the international Clean Marina rating for cleanliness and marine life and already attracts yachts from 20-60m as a stop-over hub to the Mediterranean. Once our hotels open in 2015, there will be a whole new variety of Omani experiences awaiting visitors from the region and internationally.
How is the project going, on schedule and according to plan?
The project is on schedule and many of the best components are still to come over the next five years. When the financial crisis of 2008 hit the world, many projects stopped or disappeared and people lost their commitment. But the investors and stakeholders of The Wave Muscat charted their own path and invested heavily in delivering the core public assets such as the golf course, marina and breakwater which provided the confidence for residential investors to return quickly because of the reliability of the developer to deliver. This was a major commitment by the stakeholders which proved to be successful.
Do you have a lot of off-plan sales?
Most of our sales are off plan. Demand for properties often outstrips supply, but we have a good team of experienced people working across the company from design and construction to sales, marketing and finance which keeps the balance of supply with the market expectations. Oman’s property market is based on very sound fundamentals and is very sustainable alongside the economic growth happening in the country. Our plans are to become more aggressive as the development matures with different offerings including office parks and other end uses.
With competition, you are very iconic here but more developments are coming. Do you see any problems with a bubble forming with the way that wealth has moved around a lot in the country?
Not really, Oman’s economy is well structured and regulations that govern the property industry are transparent. And we welcome other developments like ours – it means the economy is maturing and additional investment is happening and more people are coming to Oman which directly benefits us.
What do you foresee the areas where the most attention needs to be paid?
The Wave is primarily known as a residential project but this is only 40 percent of the story. So I want to focus on the other aspects like tourism, leisure, entertainment, education, business and culture. My focus is on bridging these different components with the residential to create a vibrant waterfront community.
The challenge is how to introduce these other elements and make their contribution to the overall project a profitable one for the stakeholders. One of the good things is that our stakeholders are interested in a lot more than just the monetary return.
Do you have any sort of CSR initiatives to give back to the people here?
The Wave recognizes its responsibility in developing opportunities for Omani companies and people and our commitment to this begins with our high Omanization employee rate of 74% and we are very proud of that.
We also provide support for local organizations such as the fishing industry by planting artificial reef communities off the coastline to support the growth of marine life and eventually provide for locally accessible dive sites for tourists. Our support of Oman Sail is helping to train young Omanis in international sports and marine industries and we are a major sponsor of Muscat’s annual earth hour and are also the home ground and coaching facility for the Oman National golf team.
What is your strategy for the next few years?
We want to be a major part of the promotion of Oman to the world. One of the key platforms for this is our waterfront location and integrated lifestyle amenities such as the golf course, marina and residential precincts. It’s an authentic entry point to discovering Oman and a modern reflection of the quality of life possible in Oman. Our strategy is to keep delivering our success.