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Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority will be expanding and strengthening its hospitality infrastructure, says Iyad Rasbey, Executive Director, Destination Tourism

The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) was established in May 2011 under the government of Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE). RAKTDA aims to develop the emirate’s tourism infrastructure and establish Ras Al Khaimah as a world-class destination for leisure and business travel, creating sustainable investment opportunities and enhancing the quality of life for its residents. In order to achieve its goals, the Authority has a government mandate to licence, regulate and monitor the emirate’s tourism and hospitality industry.

The man responsible for continued tourism growth and sustainability of Ras Al Khaimah, especially during the post-pandemic era is Iyad Rasbey, Executive Director, Destination Tourism Development, RAKTDA. His role entails strategic partnerships with leading global partners including tour operators, destination management companies, global agencies and airlines in order to drive visibility and visitation to the destination.

Talking about Ras Al Khaimah’s preparations to meet surging demand for quality holidays from the global market, Rasbey says, “Ras Al Khaimah has remained resilient throughout the pandemic and thanks to our concentrated efforts and adaptability, we have already returned to pre-pandemic numbers, having welcomed 285,000 visitors in Q1 2022, well on track to achieve our goal to welcome 1.1 million tourists this year.” 

As part of the growth strategy, shares Rasbey, RAKTDA will be expanding its portfolio of world-class hospitality and strengthening the infrastructure with the launch of a series of new properties. “Operated by global brands, a series of new properties operated by global brands will be launched across the emirate over the next three years including the likes of Marriott, Movenpick, Anantara and Sofitel, adding 4,725 keys to the emirate’s current hotel inventory,” he says. 

Rasbey adds, “Underpinning our development strategy is our continuous investment in strengthening connectivity on the back of the Ras Al Khaimah International Airport expansion. We have attracted several aviation partners to operate new travel routes, welcoming over 280 flights in 2021, directly connecting 40,000-plus visitors. We are continuously exploring opportunities with new markets and making the emirate even more accessible to key source markets to meet surging demand.”

Dubai has always been one of the top preferred international destinations for Indian travellers. On how differently is Ras Al Khaimah being promoted in the Indian market, both for the business and leisure travellers, Rasbey says, “We work closely with all of the other emirates under the umbrella of the UAE Ministry of Economy to attract visitors to the region and complement each other. Offering magnificent landscapes, breath-taking coastlines and rich desert planes and Jebel Jais, the highest mountain peak - the emirate has firmly established itself as one of the most authentic and adventure destinations in the Middle East. Adding year-long sunshine and 64 km of white sandy beaches, 45 minutes from Dubai International Airport, Ras Al Khaimah offers a Nature experience which complements its neighbouring emirates.”

As India is one of the top five source markets for Ras Al Khaimah, RAKTDA is continually looking at ways to welcome more guests from this market. “We aim to promote our destination and grow all travel segments – leisure, families, business, MICE and weddings. We recently conducted two roadshows in Delhi and Mumbai, two key cities for us, where we brought our hotel partners as well as media together to increase awareness and drive bookings. Our goal for 2022 is to welcome 1.1 million tourists, with India playing a major role,” says Rasbey, adding that the emirate’s natural topography – the sea, desert and spectacular mountains – combined with world-class tourism and events’ infrastructure, portfolio of global hospitality brands – from ultra-luxurious beach resorts managed by some of the most notable names in the business to family-friendly city – and beach resorts – and easy accessibility make Ras Al Khaimah perfect for both leisure and MICE travel.

Not this alone, it is a perfect family-friendly holiday destination too, feels Rasbey. “World-class family friendly attractions include the world’s first Bear Grylls Explorers Camp, the world’s first branded accommodation as well as the highest restaurant in the UAE – 1484 by Puro. The emirate is also popular for its exhilarating attractions such as the Jebel Jais Flight: the world’s longest zipline and Jais Sky Tour, plus the recently opened Jais Sledder, the region’s longest toboggan ride that runs a length of 1,840 m and RAK Airventure, a tethered hot-air balloon experience suitable for all ages,” he shares.

Additionally, with over 7,000 years of fascinating history, traditions and culture, guests can take a glimpse back in time into the city’s pearling industry through immersive learning experiences at the Suwaidi Pearl Farm – the only pearl farm in the UAE – and the National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah as well as bespoke tours of key archaeological sites in the emirate.

Recently, RAKTDA announced a tourism strategy that will see the destination become the regional leader in sustainable tourism by 2025. “Post-pandemic, consumers are becoming ever more mindful of sustainability and travelling in a responsible manner where they look to positively impact the community and places they visit. Sustainability is essential to achieve growth and satisfy our guests and is at the heart of everything we are doing at RAKTDA. It is our vision to become a leader in sustainable tourism by 2025,” says Rasbey.

When people talk about sustainability, it is just a buzzword that means recycling or reducing single-use plastic. “At Ras Al Khaimah, the goal is to go far beyond this and apply sustainability to everything we do to nurture a tourism industry that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable and supports quality of life for our citizens and workforce, while conserving our unique environment. Nature and our wide-open spaces are the calling card of our destination and in order to protect our unique natural environment and local communities, we are committed to ensuring that there is no over tourism in Ras Al Khaimah. We have adopted a measured approach with a controlled pipeline of hotels which will feature wide landscaping and grounds. We are developing attractions with purpose that will enhance our natural environment and are investing in cultural conservation, with the restoration of four tentative UNESCO World Heritage Sites currently underway,” he informs.

Throwing light on the upcoming tourist attractions, Rasbey says, “Destinations must keep investing in themselves to meet changing traveller expectations and adapt to the new normal of travel. This includes developing new attractions and infrastructure as well as ensuring a wide range of accommodation offerings to attract all segments from families and groups to eco-conscious and adventure travellers and luxury and leisure seekers.” 

As a step in this direction, Ras Al Khaimah has invested US$ 136 million into 20 sustainable attractions and hotels including sustainable accommodation and new attractions and experiences in line with the strategy to focus on Nature, leisure, adventure, accessibility and authenticity. “This year, we launched our thrilling toboggan ride on Jebel Jais – the Jais Sledder – and have a line-up of exhilarating upcoming attractions including paragliding, eco-golf and mountain biking,” he adds.

Over the next five years, Rasbey says that the goal at RAKTDA is to make significant strides in the long-term vision of the emirate to significantly increase visitor numbers. “We are on track to achieve this with a strong pipeline of hotel development and attractions as well as new strategic partnerships to improve connectivity to key source markets around the world. At this year’s Arabian Travel Market, we announced the emirate’s bold new approach – balanced tourism, a key milestone in our strategy to drive overall sector growth and become the regional leader in eco-tourism. Under the holistic and encompassing banner of ‘balanced tourism’, the emirate is shaping tourism in the UAE by placing all aspects of sustainability (environment, culture conservation and liveability) at the centre of its investment and development strategy,” he shares.


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