Oman's quest to draw tourists was unveiled in plans to construct The Blue City, an ambitious $15 billion tourism project inspired by the success of large-scale building in the neighbouring Emirate of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

"The priority for the government is to diversify the economy and create new jobs," Oman's Finance Minister Ahmad Bin Abdl Nabi Mekki told a local newspaper.

Characterised by hundreds of kilometres of beaches, stunning natural scenery, rugged mountains and baking deserts, Oman saw its fledgling tourist industry take a blow after the 11 September 2001 attacks. 
  
In 2002, tourism accounted for about 13% of Oman's gross domestic product (GDP), compared with oil at about 43%. 

Hope
  
Tourism officials hope The Blue City will boost the tourist sector and diversify revenue sources over the long term. 
   

The project will cover a 35-sq-km-site along the Al-Sawadi seafront, 100 km northwest of the capital, Muscat.

Promoters say it will be a "real city" housing 200,000 people, ideal for a country facing a growth spurt in its population.

More than half of Oman's 2.54 million people are under age 20.  

Construction on The Blue City is to begin by the end of 2005 and last for 15 years.

Oman is perched on the eastern edge of the Arabian peninsula, bordered by Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the UAE.