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Surging forward: Ras Al Khaimah’s tourism boom and strategic vision for 2030

Surging forward: Ras Al Khaimah’s tourism boom and strategic vision for 2030
7 May 2024 08:44

ISIDORA CIRIC (DUBAI)


Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), renowned for its serene landscapes and rich cultural heritage, has been witnessing an unprecedented surge in its tourism sector, welcoming a record number of visitors. The emirate also registered a significant increase in international arrivals, solidifying RAK’s status not only as a global destination but also as the premier domestic getaway for residents of the UAE seeking respite from the urban grind.

In an interview with Aletihad on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market 2024 conference, Raki Phillips, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), revealed that 2023 marked a record-breaking year in tourism for Ras Al Khaimah.

“2023 was an incredible year for Ras Al Khaimah. We had record amounts of tourists that have come; we welcomed more than 1.22 million visitors. This represents a significant milestone for us, showing an increase of more than 20% in international visitor arrivals compared to previous years,” Phillips told Aletihad.

Despite the challenges posed by global market fluctuations, the tourism revenues in RAK have shown robust growth through 2023 and into the first quarter of 2024. With an eye on future expansion, Phillips revealed that RAK has set ambitious targets, aiming to welcome 1.35 million visitors by the end of 2024.

The growth is not just in numbers but also in expanding market reach - a goal supported by notable growth from key markets such as China, which saw a nearly 70% increase in visitors, alongside steady inflows from the CIS countries, Germany, the UK, and India.

Expanding Horizons

In pursuit of broadening its tourist base, RAK is also venturing into new markets like Romania and Bulgaria, anticipating that these regions will play a significant role in its tourism ecosystem. “We hope to grow significantly, and also to drive tourism. We have a lot of new hotels coming on board,” Phillips said.

The strategic vision for 2030 is ambitious. “We aim to attract 3.5 million overnight visitors by 2030, plus 1.5 million day visitors,” Phillips added.

To support this influx, RAK plans to double the number of available rooms from 8,000 to between 15,000 and 20,000. The plan also includes supporting the local airport to handle up to two million visitors, a significant growth from the current 600,000, thereby facilitating easier access to the emirate’s many attractions.

“We’re looking at tripling the growth, and this comes from multiple facets - one being the expansion of RAK International Airport, where our goal is to welcome 2 million visitors, in addition to building hotels and creating experiences,” Phillips noted.

Looking forward, RAK’s master plan for tourism is set to transform the landscape of the emirate. With the development of key areas like Al Marjan Island, Al Hamra, and Mina Al Arab, RAK is poised to become a bustling hub for tourists and business travellers alike.

“In January this year, we opened the new Anantara Mina Al Arab overwater villa, a Maldivian-style experience that has done very well. Next month, we’ll open the Sofitel in Al Hamra,” Phillips detailed, adding that more development is expected by the end of the year.

The plan also involves enhancing the residential capacity of the emirate from around 400,000 to 650,000 within five years, he added, highlighting the emirate’s broader aim to scale up infrastructure, thereby supporting both the local community and tourists

“Our goal is to improve livability and transform RAK into a true destination of the future,” said Phillips.

Fostering Partnerships and Investments


Ras Al Khaimah’s tourism sector is on a robust growth trajectory, driven by strategic expansions, cultural enrichment, and a focus on sustainable tourism. A big part of the emirate’s strategy includes fostering strong partnerships and creating seamless travel experiences, such as the collaboration with Oman for a See Double summer campaign.

RAKTDA, in partnership with Oman’s Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, launched the “See Double” campaign in March, which aims to attract visitors to experience both Ras Al Khaimah and its neighbour Musandam, Oman, in a single, adventure-filled trip. A key feature of the promotion is the “Kids Go Free” offer, encouraging family visits by making it more affordable to explore the attractions and hotels in both locations, all within a 90-minute drive and an easy border crossing.

“Our partnership with Oman is a wonderful example. We’re promoting a borderless experience where visitors can enjoy attractions in both RAK and Musandam. For example, RAK has the longest zipline in the world, and Musandam has the world’s longest overwater zipline,” Phillips explained.

Ras Al Khaimah is also emerging as a beacon for investors, characterised by its robust tourism development and unparalleled ease of doing business. The UAE, known for its stability and investor-friendly environment, provides a safe and dynamic setting for businesses and individuals alike.

RAK, as part of the UAE, amplifies this promise, offering a compelling blend of leisure and investment opportunities, according to Phillips.

“The UAE is a safe place to be able to invest, live and play. All of the announcements we’ve made from a tourism perspective have greatly contributed to both the growth and the ease of doing business. There are very countries places in the world where you can open a company in a matter of hours, register everything needed, and attract talent that wants to live and work here,” Phillips said.

The Nature Emirate

The emirate’s appeal as a natural retreat is hardly surprising. Nestled away from the bustling city life, RAK offers a blend of serene landscapes and cultural richness that attracts people from across the globe. As the highest peak in the UAE, Jebel Jais provides a backdrop that appeals to those interested in both adventure and sustainability, while the emirate’s 64 kilometres of pristine white beaches offer the perfect escape for sun-seekers.

Phillips also revealed that RAK is enhancing its appeal by focusing on its natural and cultural heritage, in a strategic move to cater to the growing global demand for sustainable and meaningful travel experiences.

“We have four tentative UNESCO heritage sites and we’ve identified 20 sites that we will elevate to be up to UNESCO standards. This doesn’t mean that they’ll be inscribed - but a customer experience of a journey, especially from a culture that walks you through that historical context, will be something phenomenal to experience,” Phillips said.

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