Zubair Small Enterprises Centre (Zubair SEC) in collaboration with The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Muscat announced the results of an empirical research on “the SME Ecosystem in the Sultanate and Seizing Opportunities in Tourism” at an event held recently. The event was hosted by Ziyad Muhammad Al Zubair, board member of The Zubair Corporation, and attended by Her Excellency Ambassador Laetitia van Asch, ambassador of the Netherlands in the Sultanate, and by executive management members of a number of public and private organisations, as well as owners of small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs.
The research project was commissioned by the Embassy and is a collaboration between The Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship (ECE), Get InThe Ring Foundation (GITR), and Zubair SEC. The study is an attempt to establish a deeper understanding of the SME ecosystem in general and the tourism sector in particular, while shedding light on opportunities open to SMEs in this vital sector and how to best seize them.
The event started with a welcome note by Ziyad Muhammad Al Zubair, followed by a speech by H.E. Ambassador Laetitia van Asch.
The mind set and aims behind the research were presented by Zubair SEC, followed by a presentation on the research findings by the Dutch research team.
Speaking on the occasion, Ziyad Muhammad Al Zubair said, “Since the establishment of Zubair Small Enterprises Centre, we have been very keen at the Zubair Corporation to apply both practical experience, knowledge and best practices in designing and developing the services offered by the Centre. Towards that end, collaboration has always been key. Zubair SEC adopts partnership and cooperation with public and private sector institutions as key elements when extending best services to SMEs in the Sultanate and widening the scope and reach of such services through mutual collaboration”.
He added, “The valuable collaboration between Zubair SEC and the Embassy facilitated the creation of a dedicated work team to study and research the economic context in which small and medium entrepreneurs can achieve sustainable success and development. We are very appreciative of this collaboration and the efforts of our partners.
A significant part of the collaboration focused on supporting entrepreneurs by familiarizing them with experiences and knowledge of similar businesses and projects around the world, so widening entrepreneurs’ horizons beyond the Sultanate. This research project capitalized on two significant elements: the extensive knowledge and long research experience of Dutch organizations and institutions in this field, and Zubair SEC’s local reach, insight, and experience with small and medium enterprises. The project examined the support environment for small and medium enterprises in the Sultanate and essential requirements for the development of this important sector. The research also focused on the tourism sector and the available opportunities, and proposed practical tools to assist entrepreneurs in order for them to benefit from such opportunities.”
H.E. Ambassador Laetitia van Asch commented, “The tourism sector in the Sultanate, including SMEs, has huge potential. This report translates this potential in understanding SMEs in the tourism sector and underlying business opportunities. It offers practical tools and models for further development of the SME Support Ecosystem. The Embassy is delighted that Zubair SEC has tapped into the expertise of the Dutch Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship and Get in the Ring Foundation. As one of the most respected SME support organisations, Zubair SEC is an ideal partner in contributing towards the Sultanate’s goals of economic diversification. I am convinced that SMEs will benefit from its knowledge and experience.”
The research had three components: an international literature review; quantitative surveys with 200 SMEs in the tourism and complementary sectors in the Sultanate of Oman; and 20 qualitative interviews with key players in the SME ecosystem and tourism sector. This method served to triangulate the survey outcomes and offer guidance and good practice examples in support of SMEs, both in the tourism sector and beyond.
The report gives an overview of the current supporting infrastructure for SMEs in the Sultanate, and makes recommendations to strengthen the SME ecosystem. The report also identifies challenges to and opportunities for achieving SME growth specifically in the tourism sector with many of the findings applicable to other sectors. The report concludes with a series of recommendations, both for the wider SME ecosystem and the tourism industry in particular. The report sets the research findings in the context of wider theory and international research relating to SME ecosystems and tourism development.
One of the key takeaways in the research is an SME Support Ecosystem Diagram that maps the key stakeholders and players in this domain according to available support services categorized into five main pillars. The diagram identifies areas of strength and areas that have space for further development in terms of support offerings to the SME ecosystem in the Sultanate. The research provides tools and frameworks that help SMEs identify business opportunities in tourism and even in other sectors.
The research launch event was followed the netxt day by a full day workshop conducted by prominent instructors from the Netherlands. They provided knowledge and tools to SMEs and key stakeholders in the SME ecosystem on how to identify business opportunities in tourism and on how to progress from ideation – coming up with an idea - to implementation. The workshop concluded with a competition for attendees to pitch in with projects they came up with at the workshop.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands is renowned for its vast experience in entrepreneurship development. With the objective of providing international exposure and expertise to SMEs in the Sultanate, the Embassy and Zubair SEC have had ongoing discussions regarding how best to collaborate to support Omani small and medium business owners and familiarise them with global best practices.