RAK Plans $250m Tourism Push In 2012

The emirate is aggressively developing its hospitality sector and aims to attract 2.5 million visitors by 2015.

Ras Al Khaimah is planning to invest $250 million this year in promoting its hospitality sector, Victor Louis, the COO of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) told Gulf Business.

“In 2011, we saw a 40 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of visitors, and we also saw a 30 per cent increase in hotel Rev Par during the period,” he said.

“In the first quarter of 2012, we grew another 40 per cent in visitor numbers and witnessed a 31 per cent rise in Rev Par. So the numbers are doubling,” he said.

Now, the aim to aggressively promote Ras al Khaimah, the “rising emirate”, as the UAE’s leisure and relaxation destination, said Louis.

“First we position the destination and build the brand. We have done our research and we have talked to the end customers and clients and I think we believe we are more of an affordable luxury destination,” he said.

“We cater to a wider base of clients where they can afford to travel three times a year. When we compare ourselves to the other emirates, I think most cater to the five star luxury plus, and I think we compliment them by targeting mid-scale resort properties, which still offers you the experience of a leisure destination with the sun, the sand and the F&B,” he said.

The emirate’s close proximity to the Dubai airport – 45 minutes away- is also a strong selling point, he said.

“Our guests still have the option of getting all the experiences that Dubai offers. They can visit the city daily- there are shuttle buses commuting from the hotels to shopping malls in Dubai, they can do excursions, they can visit Burj Khalifa and the Atlantis- so we can capitalise on the key investment done in the emirate; we are under the same umbrella anyway,” he said.

In terms of its uniqueness, the emirate offers a relaxing holiday on the beach, with the Arabian elements of mountains and desert animals. “We have a couple of wetland areas where you have flamingoes, other birds, mangroves, pearl farms- all in the direction of relaxed holidays,” said Louis.

The emirate also offers tourists the chance to indulge in watersports such as sailing and surfing, but Louis is quick to point out that Ras Al Khaimah has no intention of promoting itself purely as a sports destination.

Throughout 2011, RAKTDA actively participated in global travel shows, had a road show in Sweden, and has conducted marketing campaigns in several source markets. It has also launched a new website for the destination, new imagery and new collaterals like tourist maps and brochures, said Louis.

In the next 12 to 18 months, Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria and Rixos Bab Al Bahr are also set to open in the emirate, bringing in an additional 976 rooms and suites for visitors to stay.

The final target is to bring in 2.5 million visitors to the city by 2015, said Louis.