Ras Al Khaimah to Attract a Million Visitors by End 2018
With 35 percent growth in Indian arrivals in the first quarter of this year, Indian travellers are a significant contributor to the destination's success. We spoke to Haitham Mattar, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) on strategies outlined in 2017 for India.
Haitham Mattar, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority
INDIA CONTINUES to be one of the most significant source markets in terms of visitor numbers, accounting for 8 per cent of total visitors to Ras Al Khaimah last year.
Ras Al Khaimah recorded a rise of 11 per cent in overall visitor numbers in 2016 versus 2015. Visitors from India to the emirate in Q1 2017 grew by 35 per cent, while the number of guest nights taken by Indian tourists grew 49.4 per cent in the same period when compared to Q1 2016. Furthermore, the average length of stay of Indian guests in Q1 2017 has grown by 10.6 per cent.
“Ras Al Khaimah has seen a growing trend from Indian inbound tourism for short leisure stays, MICE and wedding sector. Our aim is to promote unique activities and events with a view to encourage Indian travellers to lengthen their stay in the destination. India, being a significant source market, is expected to be an important contributor to the emirate’s vision to attract one million visitors by the end of 2018. We are optimistic that through focused efforts and participation in various roadshows and trade events, tourism from India will continue to develop in the coming years,” says Haitham Mattar, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority.
With the main focus on developing MICE tourism, key events, incentives and meetings into the region, the emirate has developed first semi-permanent summit function space at the convention centre at the Al-Marjan Island which can host about 1,000 pax depending on the setting. From an inventory of 5,000 rooms last year, the emirate is now looking at 9,500 rooms by the end of 2017. So MICE is going to be a key strategy to diversify the segment.
As per the convention facilities, there is one convention space in Al Hamra which hosts about 500 people; Ras Al Khaimah Convention Centre on Al-Marjan Island nicely located on the sea. This has both indoor and outdoor facility. “The double digit growth in 2016 which is 10.9% makes us the fastest growing emirate committed to sustainable tourism. India jumped into the fourth position to become a prominent market through our trade activities. We have been building on 35% growth in Indian visitor numbers year-to-date,” says Mattar.
Ras Al Khaimah boasts of a large portfolio of world-class hotel offerings, including international brand names, such as Waldorf Astoria, Rotana, Hilton and Minor. This year, the tourism authority will add brands like Anantara, IHG, Movenpick, Ritz Carlton and homegrown 3-star brands like Citymax Max and Garden Inn. “Some of our iconic properties like the Waldorf Astoria and Ritz Carlton have been home to some high-profile Indian weddings which has positioned the destination as a discerning wedding destination. The outbound wedding business from India was estimated at US$40 billion last year, and we are well positioned to tap into this segment,” adds Mattar.
Building on the successful launch of the region’s first commercial Via Ferrata and the hosting of major international sporting events such as the Ras Al Khaimah 2016 Golf Challenge – the penultimate stop of the European Challenge Tour, RAKTDA has outlined plans to enhance its sporting events portfolio and tourism products to leverage the emirate’s natural attributes. A key focus of this strategy includes rolling out policies and initiatives to support a recent partnership with UNWTO, which sees Ras Al Khaimah serve as a sponsor of the United Nation’s Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
The destination offers an array of natural landscapes that appeals beach-lovers, active adventurers or wellness seekers. “We intend to enhance the attractions for the benefit of travellers and offer a sustainable tourism product portfolio which preserves the rich local culture and traditions that Ras Al Khaimah is known for,” Mattar explained.
While Mattar speaks about his top most recommended places, he also points out the development of travel products to watch out for in 2017. “The region’s first commercial Via Ferrata and UAE’s largest outdoor zip line, just opened in Ras Al Khaimah, an observation deck and luxury mountain camp, as well as the launch of official cycling and hiking routes across the emirate, with a focus on Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest mountain peak, unique falcon show are a few of the not-to-miss attractions,” advices Mattar.
While there is huge sign of growth in India market to become the number one market in the coming years, the destination is accessible from the three airports - Ras Al Khaimah, Dubai and Sharjah Airport.
Ras Al Khaimah has signed an MOU with Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI) to host a three-day OTOAI Convention to be held from September 12-14, 2017. The board is also hosting DRV, the three-day convention from December 7-9 for 800 German travel trade professionals representing a consumer base of around six-to-eight million German travellers.
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