PR fail – or refreshing modesty?

UPDATE: See the end of this story for an update.

Pictured right is Khasab Fort, a small, 17th-century Portuguese-built castle that sits on the waterfront at Khasab, a tiny Omani town overlooking the Strait of Hormuz at the head of the Gulf.

Last month Khasab Fort won the International Award at the 2010 Museums & Heritage Awards for Excellence at a ceremony in London, beating off competition from the Manchester United Experience, the Heineken factory tour and a Gallo-Roman Museum in Belgium. Well done, Khasab.

I’m only mentioning it because it surprised me, in these days of PR-driven communication agendas, that the Omani tourism people didn’t send out a press release trumpeting the victory. Not a peep, in fact. I only found about it because of one line at the bottom of a press release about something else entirely.

Was it – to adopt Twitter-speak – a “PR fail”? Possibly (even, let’s face it, probably), but since I’m a charitable soul it crossed my mind that it might be a case of refreshing modesty.

Khasab is way off most visitors’ beaten track – it’s a flight or a heck of a long drive from the Omani capital Muscat, and is in fact closer to Dubai (though still a three-hour drive from there). It’s small, rocky and remote – not far, in fact, from the islet where 19th-century British sailors went “round the bend” from the heat, aridity and isolation.

Frankly, the Omani tourism authorities have got bigger fish to fry than Khasab, in the shape of their Now Is The Time! campaign, and projections which place Oman as the world’s third-fastest growing tourism market this year.

Maybe they’re just, well, playing it cool, not drawing attention to an out-of-the-way provincial heritage museum because, well, nobody goes to Khasab for the fort – they go for the fjords, the dolphins, the dhow trips.


Nah. PR fail.

UPDATE: As the comments on this story show, I have an apology to make – far from a PR fail, this shows just how out of touch I really am. It seems that releases went out (but I missed them) and the story was headline news in Oman (but I missed it). Apologies to all concerned for my mistake; all unfounded accusations are withdrawn and no inference should be made, other than to the author’s competence.


  1. Gary Arndt

    I’ve been to Khasab, something which I guess few people can say.

    Having said that, I had no idea this museum existed until I read this post. The building looks familiar and I probably saw it, but no one told me it was a museum. No brochures at the hotel. My tour guide didn’t tell me about it.

  2. Matthew Teller

    Thanks, Gary. When I was in Khasab, I’d hooked up with a group for a day aboard a dhow – I wanted to visit the fort, they didn’t. So I missed it.

    I’m interested to find someone who’s been there. Anyone?

  3. Jenny Woolf

    Rather sad for them. All that effort and doing so well and nobody cares. Definitely a big, big PR fail. As for bigger fish to fry – well, depends what kind of tourism Oman is going for. Join the hordes, maybe

  4. C.B.Osborne

    I have been to the fort in Khasab both before and after it was `done up`.
    I am delighted for Musandam which is a fascinating wedge of the Gulf, but there
    are more interesting forts in Oman.

    For the record, in 1994, I nominated `the restoration of the forts` for the British Guild of Travel Writers best overseas project award. I am happy to say it was successful.

    Khasab is only a 1 hr.40 minute road-trip from Ras al Khaimah and while I hate to think of
    Musandam swarming with tourists, I highly recommend a visit and the dhow trip up the great Khor Shim `fjord`.

    I authored the Musandam section in `Insight Guide to UAE & Oman`.


  5. Matthew Teller

    Thanks, Jenny and Christine – was rather hoping you might drop by to comment, Christine…

    But I don’t think either of you need worry: Oman is definitely not aiming to develop mass-market tourism, and – if only because of the access difficulties – I can’t really see Musandam ever ‘swarming’ with tourists! Agree with you on that dhow trip, though…

  6. C.B.Osborne

    Nowhere is safe from tourism: anyone read the rather sad article on the Andaman Islands in the Sunday Times Travel 13.6.10?

  7. Alison Cryer

    The release only went to 443 travel writers who had shown interest in Oman and forts and castles in the past. It was also included in the release for the recent roadshow that you attended Mathhew.

    1. Matthew Teller

      Hello, Alison – great to see you here. Thank you for taking the time to shed some proper light!

      From what you say here, and what a friend in Muscat tweeted earlier on today (thanks @Arun), it’s as I suspected first of all – I’m just out of touch! I totally missed this award last month, and it was that line in the roadshow release which alerted me to Khasab’s success. I’m really pleased for them and Oman.

      Apologies, then, for spreading misinformation and false rumours. The saving grace is that Khasab, Oman and the award itself have, I hope, got a tiny bit more publicity as a result…

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