Earlier this year the Ministry of Tourism issued the Executive Regulations of the Tourism Law by way of Ministerial Decision 39/2016 (the “New Executive Regulations”). The New Executive Regulations supersede the Executive Regulations issued by Ministerial Decision 91/2003 (the “Old Executive Regulations”). The New Executive Regulations came into force on 1 September 2016 (by way of an amending Ministerial Decision 50/2016).
Whilst the Tourism Law, promulgated by Royal Decree 33/2002 has not been amended, the New Executive Regulations are drafted to bring greater clarity to the booming tourism industry of the Sultanate. The New Executive Regulations also include new categories of hotels, tourist establishments, etc. which are now part of Oman’s tourism industry.
This article aims to provide a brief overview of the New Executive Regulations, their features and where required a comparison with the Old Executive Regulations.
One of the most significant changes to the licensing provisions brought about by the New Executive Regulations is the issuance of a preliminary approval. The Ministry of Tourism will now issue a preliminary approval to the licence applicant in order to fulfill the required conditions for the tourism project and to obtain required approvals from competent authorities. The preliminary approval will be effective for one year from the date of issuance and shall not be extended or renewed.
By introducing the concept of a preliminary approval, the Ministry has done away with the mandatory requirement to launch the establishment within six months of the date of issuance of license, as provided in the Old Executive Regulations.
Further, in order to ensure that the tourist establishments are managed and operated in a professional manner, Appendix 3 of the New Executive Regulations sets out the minimum qualifications and experience required from the managers of the hotels and tourist establishments. The qualifications and experience requirement has been further classified into requirements from an Omani and a non-Omani manager.
Revocation of license
Whilst retaining many of the licensing, renewal and revocation provisions from the Old Executive Regulations, the New Executive Regulations have reduced the number of days within which a renewal application should be made. Further, if the business of an establishment is suspended for reasons within the control of the licensee for a period of six consecutive months, then the Ministry has the right to revoke the licence. The Old Executive Regulations gave 24 months’ time for revocation of a licence in the event the business is suspended.
Unlike the Old Executive Regulations, the New Executive Regulations now provide a cure period of 30 working days to the licensee prior to suspension or revocation of the licence to allow the licensee to rectify the violation or breach.
The New Executive Regulations also provide a mechanism for filing grievance(s) against any decision issued in accordance with the New Executive Regulations.
Increase in fees
Appendix 1 of the New Executive Regulations sets out the types of tourist establishments and the fees and duration for each of their respective licences. Compared to the Old Executive Regulations, the fees payable under the New Executive Regulations are almost ten times higher.
Further, the requirements relating to provision of a Letter of Guarantee and the circumstances in which it can be liquidated have been relaxed.
Recognition of Archeological Sites and Tourist Villages
Whilst the Old Executive Regulations recognised and provided for tourism establishments such as hotels, restaurants, hotel apartments and tourist camps, the New Executive Regulations now provide rules related to identified ‘Archaeological Sites,’ specified as castles, forts and other archaeological sites subject to the supervision of the Ministry of Tourism.
The New Executive Regulations also include ‘Tourist Villages’ on a site encompassing a number of utilities and services including lodges but essentially having a unique architectural identity that is subject to a single management.
Article 25 of the New Executive Regulations provide that the tourist places and sites, governmental tourist lands and Archeological Sites shall be utilised pursuant to usufruct, lease, management or performance contacts in accordance with the unified forms prepared by the Ministry of Tourism.
As the Sultanate is also evolving into a destination for adventure sports enthusiasts and hikers, the New Executive Regulations specify that the Ministry of Tourism may specify mountain passages and paths in the Governorates and license a party to manage such passages and paths.
Amongst other requirements, the New Executive Regulations specify that only five- or four-star hotels, or a hotel that is managed by an international company in the field of hotel management, can apply for recruitment of musical groups. It is also essential that the performance of the musical group correlates with the type of restaurant and the cuisine served.
All other requirements in terms of recruiting a musical group remain largely similar to the Old Executive Regulations, including the three months’ license period which can be extended for one or more terms.
Tourism guidanceThe tourism guidance licence in the Old Executive Regulations was limited to only Omani individuals provided they fulfill all the requirements for grant of such tourism license. The New Executive Regulations have broadened the scope by granting a temporary licence to any person to be trained in the ways of tourism guidance for a period of not more than one month.