Ras Al Khaimah a new hot spot
Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates, is fast emerging as a go-to destination for international travellers seeking nature, authenticity and adventure.
Visitors to Ras Al Khaimah from traditional source markets like Germany, UK and Russia continue to grow exponentially. But the growth from emerging markets such as India, Poland and Scandinavia is thanks to the increased activities of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA).
Buoyed by increasing numbers of Indian visitors – the emirate recorded a 23 per cent year-on-year rise in Indian guests in the first half of this year. October saw the RAKTDA seize new opportunities to further nurture Indian arrivals. It hosted 100 of India’s leading travel agents for a familiarisation trip and participated on a panel at the annual TAAI convention in Abu Dhabi, focusing on key travel trends affecting the Indian outbound market.
'Ras Al Khaimah is perfectly positioned to attract more visitors from India. The destination boasts unique natural landscapes including 64km pristine beaches, desert, mountains, and adventure, together with world class hotels in a safe destination only 45 minutes’ drive from Dubai International Airport,' said Haitham Mattar, CEO of RAKTDA.
While India now ranks as the fourth international source market for Ras Al Khaimah, Russia is bouncing back after last year’s rouble down turn, and markets such as Poland, Scandinavia and Eastern and Central Europe are growing.
Two new charter flights from Poland to Ras Al Khaimah International Airport began operating in October. The flights were added by TUI, following a new co-marketing agreement with RAKTDA. Polish visitor numbers to Ras Al Khaimah have increased by 157 per cent year-to-date. Ras Al Khaimah’s biggest source for visitors at just over a third is still the UAE domestic market.
'In the last 12 months we have signed multiple new strategic marketing partnerships with major tour operators and airlines. This activity is bearing fruit as we see increasing visitor numbers from all of our core markets, as well as new emerging markets,' said Mattar.
The international promotional push follows the launch earlier this year of Ras Al Khaimah’s first tourism strategy – Vision 2019 - with a target for one million visitors by the end of 2018. The emirate’s refreshed brand and award winning destination video are based on three pillars: Arabian heritage, adventure and activity, and luxury indulgence.
'This all speaks to travellers who want a world-class beach resort destination that also offers a connection to Arabian authenticity and enables them to understand the culture and heritage and connect with nature in a serene and safe environment,' added Mattar.
Certainly Ras Al Khaimah is blessed with an abundance of natural assets. It has clean seas, lush mangrove reserves, ancient oases, natural hot springs and an extensive mountain range, which includes the UAE’s highest peak – Jebel Jais, which climbs to 1,934 metres.
'We’re starting with some new mountain-based tourism attractions on Jebel Jais which we will announce towards the end of this year and into 2017,' explained Mattar. 'These plans include a Via Ferrata route, viewing deck, a five-star camp, and what will be the world’s longest zip line.'
'We also have the longer term goal of 2.9 to three million visitors by 2025, which will require 20,000 to 25,000 extra hotel rooms compared to the 5000, in 42 properties, we have today,' says Mattar.
Those rooms are already on their way with more than 3,000 in the pipeline across 12 properties by 2019 with brand commitments from Anantara, Marriott, Mövenpick and Rezidor. Hotel capacity is expected to further increase to 20,000 rooms by 2025 with many of these being on Al Marjan Island, a stunning archipelago spanning 2.7 million square metres and extending 4.5km into the crystal blue Arabian Gulf.
Hotel investors and brands are attracted by the excellent returns demonstrated by Ras Al Khaimah’s hotels. The existing hotel brands in the first half of this year benefitted from a seven per cent year-on-year increase in visitors. This resulted in hotel occupancy which averaged 70 per cent, marking a 15 per cent growth on the first quarter of 2015. RevPAR grew by 7.6 per cent over the same period, with room revenue increasing by 10.6 per cent.
Ninety per cent of Ras Al Khaimah’s international visitors fly into Dubai and enjoy a short transfer time of 45 minutes to the destination. This is one of the reasons why RAKTDA works closely with Emirates Airline in co-hosting travel trade road-shows.
RAKTDA hosted a travel trade roadshow in October in Jeddah and Riyadh in partnership with Emirates Airline. More than 85 key stakeholders from the Saudi travel trade attended the roadshows.
'The UAE is already a very popular choice for Saudi tourists, and we are rapidly establishing Ras Al Khaimah as an exciting new destination for visitors from the Kingdom who choose to visit the emirate as both a standalone holiday and as an add-on to their Dubai trip. Families from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are increasingly on the lookout for a convenient and safe destination within a short flight distance. They are keen to experience new vacation choices, and are attracted by outstanding hotel facilities, kids clubs, water sports and great shopping facilities. In addition to this, they can find exclusive accommodation features and halal tourism offerings available in several of Ras Al Khaimah’s resorts,' adds Mattar.
RAK by numbers
23pc Y-o-y rise in Indian arrivals in H1 this year
3m Expected visitor arrivals by 2025
3000 Rooms will enter the market in 2019