As the middle-east grabs attention by exploring its strategical location and aims to emerge as a logistics hub, the sultanates of the region are putting forth efforts by investing in infrastructure in different sectors. The Oman Aviation Group formed in Muscat in February 2018 aims to make the globe a smaller place to do business by empowering aviation, and enabling logistics & tourism. Logistics Insider, in an exclusive interview with Mustafa Al Hinai, CEO, Oman Aviation Group, explores the challenges, technological developments and the future outlook of the aviation sector in the Sultanate of Oman.

It has been observed that many forwarders and logistics providers have focused on the Middle East region of late. How do you foresee the future outlook of the region as an emerging air cargo hub?

As a region, the Gulf is strategically located between East and West and has favourable tax and labour conditions for business. Oman benefits from
all of these and is also noted for 50 years of peace and stability, meaning it has friendly relations with all in the region and international investments are safe in the country.

What new initiatives are planned for Oman Air in 2020 concerning new destinations, capacity augmentation and technological developments?

In 2018, Oman Air pivoted to focus on building a destination airline business model, where it works in partnership with our national tourism bodies to boost the number of inbound visitors to the Sultanate.

Elsewhere in the Group, the launch of Muscat International Airport has been a remarkable success. We’ve seen growth of around 10% in the number of passengers using it year-on-year and steady flight growth of around 4%.

The year 2020 will see more announced on a bespoke offer for the tourism industry in Oman and further exploration for how the sector approaches new technology like drones.

Oman is an established travel destination with particular strengths in luxury, boutique and adventure or sports tourism. So, supporting and strengthening the nation’s work there is a big focus for us. But we are growing our cargo capacity where we see a lot of potential. Oman is within an eight-hour flight of two-thirds of the world’s population. And our ports are outside the chokepoints of Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb, meaning ships can dock in Oman and fly cargo to Europe, Africa, or Asia at a much faster pace. Those sea-to-air connections are vital.

Across both sectors Oman has benefited from 50 years of peace and prosperity, meaning we still enjoy commercial relationships with all
neighbouring countries.

What are the limitations and challenges faced by the aviation sector in Oman? What are the areas that the country needs to work upon in
order to be at par with the other gulf nations?

Unlike some of our neighbours, until recently Oman was perhaps not as focused at promoting its achievements and assets abroad. But now that has changed – we want to tell the world about our country. Our path to success will not come from copying our neighbours, however. That much is clear.

That’s why we have pivoted Oman Air into a destination business model. And, on the cargo front we are looking to take advantage of Oman’s historic links with countries around the Indian Ocean, especially India; leveraging
connections with Africa, particularly East Africa; as well as more ‘niche’ cargo corridors into Russia, Central Asia, and East Asia.

Explain the role of Oman Aviation Group as an economic catalyst for the Sultanate of Oman and as an enabler for the government’s diversification plan to reduce reliance on oil.

Since its inception in February 2018, Oman Aviation Group – comprising Oman Air, Oman Airports, and Oman Aviation Services (OAS) – has been working to grow Oman’s aviation sector, and enable the country’s tourism and logistics sectors for the benefit of the national economy.

Oman Aviation Group is an innovative way to look at an aviation business. The first of its kind, we believe it is the business model for the future, where we focus on the economic impact of our sector and adjacent industries,
like hospitality, not only the commercials of the businesses which form the Group. It has a number of benefits for us and the Group
companies:

• It means we go to market with a whole service encompassing airline, airport and everything in between.
• It gives our international peers a strong, cohesive partner to engage when doing business in Oman.
• And it frees the business units to focus on continuing to deliver excellent customer service, which wins them international awards.

Our vision is for aviation to be a supporting pillar of other sectors of the economy. We will focus on contributing to Oman’s Vision 2040 by developing the aviation sector’s business potential locally and globally