Mumbai: Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), UAE’s northern most Emirate, is something of a hidden gem and offers an authentic and accessible Arabian Experience with its unique mix of old-world culture and modern vibrancy. The region’s most diverse destination, RAK has a combination of amazing beaches, rugged mountains, luxury resorts and desert wilderness camps. Haitham Mattar, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), said: “We reported a growth of 19 per cent in the overall number of guests, with a substantial increase from emerging markets. We are optimistic about reaching our goal of a million visitors by the end of 2018 and 2.9 million by the end of 2025.”

“Effectively utilising our natural assets in a sustainable way marks a real opportunity for us to attract strategically important tourist groups” – Haitham Mattar, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority

Hotel occupancies clocked a positive growth in 2017, with the average occupancy throughout the year pegged at 73.6 per cent – a growth of 3.5 per cent compared to 2016. The average length of stay also grew by 2.7 per cent to 3.41 days, showing the increasing appeal of the destination beyond the weekend break or staycation.

“The increased demand highlights the need for more hotel rooms and RAKTDA has plans to grow its current resort portfolio from just over 5400 rooms to a whopping 10,000 by the end of 2020. Diversification of the accommodation options is equally important and RAKTDA recently signed a MoU with Airbnb to regulate and increase the inventory of holiday homes ensuring high-quality stays are available for tourists.” With the introduction of an array of adventure activities like the world’s longest Zipline and the spectacular Viewing Deck Park at Jebel Jais, RAK is upping the ante as the region’s fastest-growing tourism destination. “We are increasingly being known as the ‘Adventure Emirate’ in the UAE,” CEO Mattar said.

One of RAKTDA’s key growth areas in 2017 was the development of its adventure tourism product in and around Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest mountain. The Jebel Jais Via Ferrata has gained top Trip Advisor ranking among the Emirate’s attractions. Earning plaudits as one of the most thrilling experiences in the UAE, the trekking and climbing routes high on the mountain were also shortlisted for ‘Innovation of the Year’ at the highly acclaimed Adventure Travel Awards. “We are optimistic about the future and will continue to focus our efforts on growing the number of international and regional visitors looking for an authentic and accessible Arabian experience.”

RAK has been laying thrust on three key tourist segments beyond the traditional sun & sand holidaymakers, namely active adventurers, cultural explorers and luxury indulgence and wellness seekers. “Effectively utilising our natural assets in a sustainable way marks a real opportunity for us to attract these strategically important tourist groups. These groups are fundamental to our destination strategy,” said Haitham Mattar.

The UAE remains the most significant source market for tourism, accounting for almost half the visitors to Ras Al Khaimah in 2017. However, growth in international markets was also prevalent. Germany, Russia, United Kingdom and India, respectively, were the largest source markets with the number of visitors from Russia increasing by 79 per cent compared to 2016.

The UK also saw solid visitor growth of 16.8 per cent in 2017, largely due to the increase in UK tour operators bringing British holidaymakers to the Emirate. Arrivals from India grew by 35 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016.
The Emirate received 51,000 Indian visitors and India represents RAK’s fourth largest international source market. “I think one of our greatest strengths is our natural assets – we have a 64-km-long pristine coastline, the spectacular Hajar Mountains and an untouched desert landscape.”

RAKTDA also focussed on strengthening its MICE offer in 2017 hosting a number of major tourism events, including the 67th Annual Convention of the German Travel Association (DRV) in December 2017. AHIC, the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, will also be hosted in RAK for the first time in April 2018.