Arabian adventures Oman: Oman's great-outdoors offering

Yasmin Razak offers the lowdown on how to get the best out of a trip to the Arabian emirate.

Getting there Gulf Air's direct flight from London Heathrow to Muscat remains a popular choice with groups but British Airways flies from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi and then on to Muscat daily.

Sleep tight Oman's five-star offering is on the rise. Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah opened in February this year offering three hotels within one resort. The 180-room Al Husn is aimed at discerning VIPs, Al Bandar boasts 198 rooms, 11 meeting rooms and a ballroom for 700, while the 302 rooms at Al Waha suit families, but are also ideal for incentives with partner programmes. A heritage village and marina will open towards the end of the year to complement the resort. The much-lauded Al Bustan Palace, built for the GCC meeting in 1985 will close for an extensive renovation in January with a scheduled reopening date of 1 November 2007. In addition to new landscaping, the opulent property will feature 12 luxury villas, refurbished public areas and rooms in the main tower, plus a spa. Other retreats include The Chedi, favoured destination of the hip glitterati and the Grand Hyatt Muscat, which features several restaurants for dine-arounds.

Incentive ideas Oman is all about the great outdoors - from mountain trekking to abseiling into Majlis Al Jinn, the spectacular subterranean cave chamber, known locally as the meeting place of the spirits. Bahwan Tours, the DMC division of Bahwan Travel Group, can arrange trips to see turtles hatching, boat tours for dolphin-watching or snorkelling by the superb Fins beach. Groups are then transferred to the untouched Wadi Shaab, a ravine between the cliffs and served lunch under a canopy. But after exerting your group, the destination's spa properties are perfect places to revive exhausted delegates. Try the the frankincense linen wraps at Shangri-La's CHI spa, or the aromatherapy clay baths at the Chedi. For something more intense, try a group meditation session at the Al Nadha Resort when it opens towards the end of the year.

Coming soon The team behind the Mall of the Emirates have teamed up with the Omani government to create The Wave. This ambitious project comprises five-star properties, an 18-hole Greg Norman-designed golf course and a marina along the coastline with water taxis to transfer guests to the local souk. The spa resort hotel is expected to feature four meeting rooms, plus a ballroom for up to 500 seated, bringing a huge capacity boost to the destination. Furthermore, the development will have a traditional Omani feel as the government has issued height and design specifications to ensure that the resort is in keeping with the local heritage. The project has a completion date of 2112 for the whole scheme.

PEUGEOT'S OMANI EXPERIENCE

When Peugeot wanted to reward its top 110 sales managers, they turned to Euro RSCG Skybridge for an incentive trip with a sense of adventure.

Heeding the client's criteria of a destination with a short flying time and winter sun for their November 2005 event, the agency's managing director, events, Tina Morris proposed Oman. She explains: "I first went there on holiday back in 1989 and instantly saw its incentive appeal. As Dubai has become more popular over the years, clients have often requested a more Arabian experience. Many Dubai delegates mention that they expected more of an Arabian flavour, and that is what you get in Oman."

Aware of the destination's positioning compared with Dubai, Morris's team took photos of both Muscat and Dubai a week before the pitch. "When the client saw the pictures, there was just no comparison," she says.

"While Dubai has inspirational hotels, Oman offers such a strong Arabian experience." A teaser campaign, 'Peugeot's Arabian Adventure', attracted one of the strongest response rates from sales managers.

Morris felt the The Grand Hyatt Muscat would be the perfect base for the client. "As the group was sales manager level, we needed to use hotels that were not too 'intimidating'," she explains.

The group also made use of the other hotels, enjoying spa treatments at The Chedi and a gala dinner at Al Bustan Palace. A Niswah tour, souk adventure, dolphin watching and massive beach party with activities completed the trip, leaving Morris enthused. "Oman has everything - it is colourful and vibrant plus it is a destination you can repeat with the same client.

After Muscat, Salalah is a great return option. We've already pitched Oman twice since and I hope the clients opt for it."

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