Located on the very northern tip of the United Arab Emirates, the tiny emirate of Ras Al Khaimah may have kicked off its tourism development strategy a few years later than neighbouring Dubai and Abu Dhabi; but it’s now ploughing full steam ahead to achieve it’s ambition to become an international tourism destination in its own right.
Ras Al Khaimah is investing millions in its tourism infrastructure; with an array of impressive hotel properties set to open soon — not least the highly anticipated Waldorf Astoria, the first in the region, as well as exciting theme parks, visitor attractions; and an expanding airline.
Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (Ras Al Khaimah TDA) which was set up about a year-and-a-half ago has been assigned a budget of US$ 500 million which it is investing in various projects aimed at positioning the emirate as an “affordable luxury” destination for leisure and adventure travel and catapulting Ras Al Khaimah onto the global tourism map.
The tourism board has ambitious targets to attract of 1.2 million visitors by 2013 and develop a hotel room inventory of 10,000 rooms by the year 2016.
So far it is on track to achieve these targets. Last year, RAK received 835,200 visitors compared to 600,000 visitors in 2010 — marking a 40% increase — along with a revenue rise of almost AED 400 million (US$108million).
2012 has been a positive year so far for RAK. with hotel guests from January to August numbering 725,544 (66% of the full-year target), providing revenues of US$ 102,569 million (AED 376,430 million).
Occupancy at beach and resort hotels is up 4.1% on the same period last year; and RevPar has also increased 31.29%. Hotels in the city are also doing well with RevPar up 18.99% on same period last year.
Targeting the right markets
The top five visitor markets to RAK are Germany, UAE, Russia, Czech Republic and Austria. Victor Louis, chief operating officer, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority explains that a key pillar in his strategy has been a number of deals signed with major European tour operators.
Last year for example, Ras Al Khaimah TDA signed an agreement with German Tour Operator, Reise Service Deutschland and Dubai-based Destination Management Company World of Travel to introduce six charter flights direct from Germany and Austria to RAK.
The charters, which arrived every week from the cities of Hamburg, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Berlin, Munich and Vienna have been well-received by the European market, bringing an additional 55,000 visitors to the emirate.
Another charter service agreement formed last year with Swedish tour operator Apollo, brought an additional 5,000 visitors to the emirate, resulting in over 150,000 room nights for hotels in RAK.
And in September this year; Ras Al Khaimah TDA signed a major deal with one of Russia’s biggest tour operators Natalie Tours, in cooperation with Alpha Tours to introduce twice weekly charter flights from Moscow until April 2013.
The charter flights will be the first to directly connect Moscow with RAK and are expected to bring an extra 7,000 Russian tourists into the emirate; translating into a demand for 17,000 room nights.
In a bid to educate the Russian market about what Ras Al Khaimah has to offer; a roadshow was conducted this summer in the Russian cities of Tyumen, Omsk, Novosibirsk and Surgut.
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