With well-established hospitality markets and a world-class free trade zone, Ras Al Khaimah has seen returns on investment reaching double digits, to the extent that hotel development on the Marjan Island is surpassing returns achievable in key projects across both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Filippo Sona, director, head of hotels, MENA region at Colliers, tells us more about the key tourism components in the emirate
A comprehensive offering
Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) has achieved a place on the list of top 10 fastest-growing destinations worldwide, as a result of its ongoing efforts to develop world-class hotels and entertainment venues. With its mighty Hajar mountains dominating the landscape and rolling down to the shore, the emirate serves as a great base for sightseeing and exploring its expanses of rugged terrain. The region is also steeped in history, with archaeological excavations revealing that the area has been inhabited since the third millennium BC. For visitors interested in the historical aspect, the Ras Al Khaimah National Museum does an excellent job of explaining the region’s rich and fascinating past.
Much of the city is modern. However, the atmospheric Jazirat Al Hamra area is a major tourist attraction, providing a taste of the peaceful emirati life of the pearl divers and fishermen before the mid-20th-century oil boom.
RAK is predominantly a leisure destination, driven by both the domestic and international markets. Leisure guests account for up to 90 percent of demand in beach and desert resorts, which make up the largest segment of supply. The emirate welcomed 820,772 visitors in 2016, up almost 11 percent on numbers the previous year, with growth for 2017 reaching double digits. Going by the pace of growth over the last three years, RAK looks likely to hit its target of welcoming one million tourists by the end of 2018.
Diverse lodging options
The RAK hospitality market consists of a mixture of hotels and resorts, serviced apartments and guesthouses. The majority of guesthouses, serviced apartments and city hotels are located in or close to RAK City. Resorts, which dominate the market, are typically sited towards the south of the coastline as part of upcoming developments, while two desert resorts offer alternative options. The hotel market is led by Hilton Worldwide, which currently operates five properties. Key changes to supply in 2016 included the expansion of the DoubleTree by Hilton Al Marjan Island and the rebranding of Banyan Tree Al Wadi Desert Resort to a Ritz Carlton Partner hotel. New openings in 2016 included the three-star Tulip Inn Ras Al Khaimah and five-star Jannah Resort & Villas.
RAK’s expansion plans will be instrumental in helping the emirate to meet its growth targets. Leading the way are several initiatives that are expected to raise the emirate’s tourism profile and further cement its position as a leading leisure destination. One of these high-profile initiatives is the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, which takes place from April 14 to 17, 2018, within the grounds of the Al Hamra Village at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Due to RAK’s rising popularity, this year’s event looks set to welcome record numbers of visitors, with more than 800 investors and senior executives from across the globe expected to attend. In another key industry development, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) opened new representation offices in Shanghai (for China) and Riyadh (for Saudi Arabia) to support the emirate’s bid to reach its one-million-tourist milestone and tap new source markets.