In Ras Al Khaimah, the adventure is just beginning…
The launch of Jebel Jais Flight, the world’s longest zip-line, earlier this year, has pinned Ras Al Khaimah firmly on the bucket list for adrenaline junkies. Haitham Mattar, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), says that’s just the first of an ambitious suite of offerings aimed at attracting discerning travelers to the emirate.
It’s not every day that Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) makes international headlines, but earlier this year, the emirate was on the front pages everywhere. The launch of the 2.83km Jebel Jais Flight – the world’s longest zipline – propelled us into the news globally, with everyone from The Washington Post and CNN to the BBC talking about the thrilling new attraction.
The zipline is not just an incredible feat of engineering, but is also the summation of a strategy that aims to put RAK firmly on the tourism map as a leading destination for adventure seekers the world over. The unprecedented coverage is a vindication of this strategy: bold, innovative and exciting. Ultimately, we demonstrated that through providing clear differentiation in our tourism offerings, we can stand alongside the better-known destinations of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Authentic and accessible Arabia
We like to think that RAK, as well as excelling as a destination in its own right, is the perfect complement to the Dubai experience and is just 45 minutes away from DXB Airport.
While adrenaline activities are a big draw, especially those focused on Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest mountain, these visitors are also increasingly looking for authentic cultural experiences. This is where our unique heritage as the homeland of three Arabian tribal traditions – spanning coast, mountain and desert – really differentiates us. We are well placed to offer these travellers a truly authentic and accessible Arabian experience and capitalize on this trend.
Of course, adventure tourism and heritage aren’t our only promise. We’ve built our brand as a destination that offers a mix of authentic culture and heritage and modern vibrancy. With a combination of pristine beaches, rugged mountains, luxury resorts and desert wilderness, it’s important that our strategy breathes life into the complete experience RAK has to offer visitors, not just providing thrills for adrenaline junkies or culture adventurers looking for authentic and accessible Arabia. We won’t ignore the traditional sun and sand holidaymakers, a mainstay of our tourism sector for decades, but we want to complement that side of our offering with newer, exciting offerings that appeal to a new generation of traveller – those looking to indulge in luxury and wellness seekers.
Our next target, after adventure, is to successfully grow and market our luxury proposition. For example, the Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert and Al Hamra Beach are great examples of high-end properties in stunning desert and beach locations that attract more discerning visitors, and we have plans to grow our luxury offering, including the development of a luxury camp in the mountains – something that will be truly unique to RAK.
Capitalizing on a promise
Adventure, luxury and culture promise to raise our international profile. Today, the UAE accounts for more than a third of the visitors to RAK, according to our figures for 2017. Visitors from international markets are growing, however, and this will be an important focus for us over the next few years. Germany, Russia, the UK and India are our largest source markets in that order, with visitors from Russia increasing a massive 79 percent versus 2016, and tourists from emerging markets, particularly Eastern Europe, showing great promise.
Our successes come with challenges, however, not least of which is ensuring our infrastructure keeps up with demand, especially when it comes to quality accommodation. We have plans to almost double our hotel portfolio from 5,400 rooms to more than 10,000 by the end of 2020. Ensuring an ideal mix of offerings, in terms of experience and price point, is not easy, so we are working closely with hotel operators, investors, tour groups and other stakeholders to develop a range of accommodation options that appeal across every demographic.
These are exciting times for our emirate, and we at RAKTDA are ready to capitalize on the increased exposure the Zipline has earned us in the international media. In RAK, the adventure is just beginning.
Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority is the host partner of the 14th edition of the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2018 which will be held in a purpose-built AHIC Village on the beach of the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, from April 17 to April 19, 2018.