GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
"Learning from Dubai: Opportunities of ecological and environmental sustainable strategies for tourism development in Oman"
Paper Proposal Text :

This is an abstract to Gulf Research Meeting 2012

Workshop “International Tourism Development in the GCC countries: Opportunities and Challenges“

Title of proposed paper:

"Learning from Dubai: Opportunities of ecological and environmental sustainable strategies for tourism development in Oman"


Daniela A. Ottmann
M.Arch, Dipl.-Ing. Architecture
Assistant Professor of Architectural and Urban Design
German University of Technology, Oman (GUtech)
Tel: +968 93033745 | Fax: +968 2449 5568
PO Box 1816, Athaibah, PC 130, Sultanate of Oman

German University of Technology, Oman (GUtech)
Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design

Introduction modernisation in Oman:

Oman is situated at the Eastern end of the Arabian peninsula. Oman witnessed its renaissance in 1970, when His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said ascended to the throne and opened the country to modernisation based on fossil fuel revenue streams just like other adjacent GCC countries.
The traditional urban settlements in the Sultanate consisted of clusters in form and organisation of the vernacular urban settlements of Arabia and North Africa. Cities were surrounded and protected by walls, the urban fabric was very much influenced by indigenous material, heights of buildings had constraints given by the material availability, the socio-economic life was gathered around village communities, based on fishing, trade, agriculture and grazing according to the location and historic link of each settlement.

Prevalent tourist development schemes like in Dubai infiltrating Oman:

Equally to other GCC countries the Sultanate looks into revenue streams generated by the tourism industry and is compared to UAE currently at a beginning phase of a gradual implementation. In order to learn from the successful “cousin” of Dubai, in 2008 several large scale tourism development projects using the role model of Dubai, were launched by the local government and Emirati companies like Sama Dubai, MAF group and others like the Blue City development in conjunction with several Emirati consultancies and contractor companies.
Most of those are currently on hold at a infrastructural and enabling works level due to the financial crisis impact end of 2008.
These tendencies of export models aka Dubai icons and large scale developments based on a zero sprawl urban development lead to several questions of the adequacy, if the same implementation concepts into Oman considering local environmental, socio-cultural, ecological and economical situations are appropriate.
What potentials can be found creating concepts for a sustainable tourism in a way of meeting a long term growth of the local economies ? Which concepts can be applied in an appropriate urbanistic and architectural approach to feed a sustainable growth of the above? What are current chances to embed an ecological, social, cultural environmental approach into tourism development strategies other than the ones like Dubai?

Opportunities of sustainable tourism in Oman:

The growing population of Omani population in 2010 at 3 Million (Oman Census 2010) of a rate of 3% to a forecast growth rate to 5% in 2020 ( based on the Worldbank) leads to a strategy to create new job opportunities in order to maintain wealth that currently is mainly funded via oil-revenue into a sustainable future.
The ongoing trend also asks for new housing schemes over the whole country in through Royal Decree 81/84 established in 1984 every Omani is given a plot during once in their lifetime, which is allocated via lottery mainly in the Capital Area of Muscat.

The interesting ecological zones lay mainly within the different regions in the country, the so called Interior. There a rich local culture, built heritage and natural environment is slowly but surely abandoned by the local population.
The new imposed freedoms through power and energy supply, water availability, individualised western-style villas, global trade and comfort interiors leads to a sudden massive gap to the traditional ways of living and building. This artificial elongated oblivion creates a degree of nostalgia running beyond the historic times.

Through re-appreciating almost forgotten local culture, built heritage, and natural environment a well thought trough way of sustainable tourism can provide an opportunity to re-vitalise those abandoned and culturally rich areas in the Sultanate.
Applied strategies of bottom-up approach and decentralised sustainable tourism will create jobs and wealth, contribute to sustainable socio-cultural, economical and environmental development.
Traditional practices of built environment, agriculture, water-economy, socio-cultural infrastructure in oases in the desert, mountain villages in the Hajar Mountains and ancient coastal trading hubs have the chance to be re-applied into a 21st century approach under the parameter of a new income revenue through tourism.

Additional infrastructure provisions to those areas in Oman that have been so far almost abandoned will stress the social benefit that goes along with that.

The challenge is to manage the future growth of the industry so as to minimise its negative impacts on the environment and host communities whilst maximising the benefits it brings in terms of jobs, wealth and support for local culture and industry, and protection of the built and natural environment.

Aim of the paper

Revitalisation Strategies through urban planning and architectural approaches based on the revenue via sustainable tourism will be based on empirical and conceptual observation in several case studies in Oman e.g. Al Mansafah in the Sharqiyah region, Wadi Dhaiqa and Jebel Akhdar and compared to those concepts of the large scale developments in a “Dubai Style” like Salam Yiti resort, The Blue City and Omran Jebel Akhdar resort.
The outcome will elaborate concepts and strategies based on natural and built environment impact studies and the implications of tourism development seen from the perspective of urban planning and architecture.

Goal is it to gather certain incentives, criteria and implementation strategies to find a way for the 21st century through prevalent social, ecological and economical patterns. The combination of the traditional past and the present requirements gather into an synthesiser approach for a sustainable tourism development.

“It has been very clear to us that our heritage is not only represented by forts, castles and ancient buildings, but by spiritual customs and traditions, by science, art and literature, transmitted by one generation to another. The real preservation of heritage will not be accomplished unless we understand this, and cherish it”.
This quote from the 1994 speech of his Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said shall act as a stepping stone for this research paper to achieve a sustainable synthesiser strategy for built, natural and social environment of Oman in the 21st century using sustainable tourism development strategies as a tool.