But its message, unveiled at the beginning of the year after Muscat withdrew its stake in Bahrain-based Gulf Air and relaunched the Omani flag carrier, closely fits with the government’s wider tourism development strategy.

Currently in the middle of a five-year tourism development plan that runs until 2010, Muscat plans to invest $2bn in modernising the country’s tourism infrastructure, with $1.4bn to come from the private sector.

Since 2006, when state-owned Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran) was set up, the sector has averaged 7 per cent growth a year, and it is expected to continue to grow at this rate until 2010. In 2007, visitor num-bers approached 1 million for the first time. Occupancy rates in the country’s 9,000 rooms hover at 100 per cent but there are plans to double capacity by 2015.

Omran has signed six joint ventures to speed up the process, including the $1.7bn Salam Yiti luxury resort in the Gulf of Oman, being developed with Dubai Holding subsidiary Sama Dubai.

The scale of such projects may mimic ambitions in the wider Gulf, but given Oman’s cultural heritage and stunning scenery, it is likely to deliver more positive results than those across the border in the UAE.

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