MUSCAT: Oman should focus on experience-based tourism, Professor Dipra Jha, an internationally acclaimed expert in the tourism and hospitality sector, has said.

Speaking at a panel discussion organised recently by Oman Tourism College (OTC) to mark World Tourism Day, Professor Jha stressed on the need for players in the tourism sector to move closer to an experience-based business model against the traditional service-oriented approach.

According to a press release, the event, which was held at the OTC campus, focused on the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) theme for 2015: ‘One Billion Tourists, One Billion Opportunities’.

Dr Abdulkarim bin Sultan al Mughairi, dean, OTC, officially opened the event in the presence of dignitaries from the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors and students.

Jha, a professor in residence at The Venetian-The Palazzo, Las Vegas, and assistant professor at University of Nebraska in US, also spoke on ‘Experience Design: A New Paradigm in Hospitality and Tourism’, citing the example of Disneyland to buttress his point that the future belongs to those who can create ‘WOW experience’ for customers.

Defining niche segments and laser-focusing on it will help, he said.

Examining the current trends in tourism and hospitality including economic distinction models, moments of truth, experience ecosystem, guest engagement, staycation, glamping, mancation, girlfriend travel, locavore, bespoke experience and psychographics in the context of the sultanate’s tourism potential.

“Oman has so many odds stacked in its favour such as a rich and diverse nature, and an ancient and unique culture,” he said.

Peter J Starks, dean of Hague Hotel School, and CEO, RED Global Group, spoke on ‘The Expectation Economy: Metrics and Methods for Marhaba’. He examined strategies to convert expectations into opportunities, online reputation management, ROTI (return on training investments) and other key topics in the tourism industry.

Key personalities who participated in the panel discussion included Gautam Broota, CEO, Zahara Tours, and Nabil al Zadjali, executive assistant manager at Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Badar al Dhuni, OTC lecturer moderated the discussion.

A small exhibition was also held on the campus with a view to increasing students’ awareness about the tourism and hospitality companies in the sultanate.