History meets nature

Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE brings together 7,000 years of ancient history and the UAE’s tallest, brooding mountains with white, sandy beaches
Dhayah Fort in Ras Al Khaimah, against a backdrop of some of the country’s highest mountains

Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) recently announced a 14 per cent increase in visitor numbers to 200,000 in the third quarter of this year, compared to the same period last year.The global average of growth is about 4 per cent.

Hotels reported a significant growth in total revenues of Dh36.7 million ($10 million), up by 22 per cent; a 14 per cent increase in occupancy rates, up from 51 per cent to 58 per cent; record increase in room revenues of 31 per cent to $33.7 million; a 36 per cent increase in revenue per available room to $78.93; average daily rate growth of 19 per cent; and 10 per cent growth in F&B revenues to $18.5 million.

TTN spoke to Haitham Mattar, CEO, RAKTDA, for more insight into the growth. 'These figures are extremely encouraging as we work towards our target of one million visitors by the end of 2018.' In order to achieve this target growth, the authority aims to develop the emirate’s tourism infrastructure and establish Ras Al Khaimah as a leading destination for leisure and business travel.


'We continue to nurture growth from our top five source markets, including the UAE, Germany, UK, Russia and India. As the destination gains global appeal, we plan to steadily diversify our source markets through strategic global partnership with leading industry stakeholders, repositioning the emirate on the world tourism stage,' says Mattar.

'One market that we can never afford to neglect is the local market - the UAE is our strongest market.' Year-to-date, the local UAE remains a key source market for Ras Al Khaimah at 49 per cent, showing continued sustainable growth.

Mattar … 4,000 rooms under way in RAK

Germany remains the number one international inbound market with the UK moving up to second place overtaking Russia for international visitors. Russia, however remains strong at 4.6 per cent despite the weakening rouble, while India shows signs of steady growth at 4.3 per cent.

'Germany is the second largest source market for the emirate and a market that we continue to focus on. Visitors from Germany represented 8.9 percent of the total visitors to Ras Al Khaimah in the third quarter of 2015.'


Ras Al Khaimah, just a 45-minute drive from Dubai International Airport, is the perfect getaway from bustling Dubai. One of the northern emirates of the UAE, RAK has more than 7,000 years of fascinating history, culture and is home to the highest mountain in the UAE.

The recently appointed CEO of RAKTDA, who has spent a lot of time working in Dubai, tells us what makes the emirate tick, 'What Ras Al Khaimah does beautifully, is that it complements Dubai in many ways. Dubai is a fantastic city break, with world-class shopping, the world’s tallest tower, the world’s biggest mall, and unrivalled food and beverage experiences. We complement that by offering guests a more relaxed resort experience away from the hustle and bustle of a busy city. We offer people much-needed tranquil time.'

With year-long sunshine and 62 kilometres of white sandy beaches, RAK has enjoyed a steady stream of visitors from within the region and beyond in recent years. 'We have the longest uninterrupted coastline in the UAE,' Mattar equips. 'We also have some fantastic historical sites. Ras Al Khaimah is by far the richest emirate in historical and archaeological sites, giving deeper insight into the present UAE.'

The chief executive does not bat an eyelid when asked what he likes about the northern emirate. 'I am in love with the mountains. And now with the weather clearing up and the haze going away, you can see how magnificent they truly are.

'Driving up Jebel Al Jais is quite an experience, the drive in itself is just amazing.'


As the helmsman of the tourism authority, Mattar believes, 'The mountains are a great opportunity for us, they are our key differentiator – we have some of the highest in the UAE at 1,900 metres high. We are now taking the opportunity to start building activities around the mountain to draw different segments of visitors. Currently, when you go up the mountain you don’t have enough to do, we want to create food and beverage outlets, more facilities and also build camping sites for those who want to stay overnight.'

When TTN spoke to Steven Rice, RAKTDA’s CEO before Mattar, he hinted at outdoor zip lining opportunities in the mountains of Ras Al Khaimah, pending ongoing feasibility studies. Mattar confirms this information and adds, 'We are looking one step ahead. We hope to combine zip lining with an entire adventure park in the mountains.'

The Ras Al Khaimah we visit today will be slightly different in the next one to two years and Mattar tells us why. 'I think what you will see in RAK is a more diverse market with different nationalities coming in, especially with the growth that we are actively seeking now from India, China, Iran and Turkey. We are actively running promotions in these markets.

'You’ll see new developments on Al Marjan with new hotel openings soon to be announced.

'You’ll see more attractions and events. In fact, we are currently working on a 12-month calendar of events across Rak in different locations.

'We are also making the roads much easier to drive – this is crucial to allow easy access into the emirate. The E611 highway, once completed, is going to come directly into RAK, making it clvoser and closer to the rest of the UAE,' says Mattar.


About 49 per cent of the emirate’s guests comes from within the UAE. 'The UAE is one of our strongest and most sustainable markets. We have seen that when we started building family-friendly products, such as the Double Tree by Hilton on Al Marjan Island and Rixos Bab Al Bahr, we were able to attract more families.

'Our family base has grown 72 per cent year on year and this proves that the emirate has become more attractive to that segment.

'We will continue to build products that are family-friendly to attract the UAE market, who predominantly travel with families.

'We are also looking to start introducing the alcohol-free concept inside hotels as we’ve realised that some of the families really appreciate these products.'


As the emirate continues with its expansion plans to meet ambitious growth targets, we continue to diversify our rich offering through developing retail, dining, cruise, entertainment, and meetings facilities, to further build Ras Al Khaimah’s position as a leading destination for business and leisure.

'By 2025, Ras Al Khaimah has the potential to reach three million visitors and create more than 80,000 job opportunities in the emirate alone. The pipeline will need to grow by approximately 20,000 hotel rooms to accommodate this visitor influx and we’re well on the way to achieve this with about 4,000 rooms under design and construction,' concludes Mattar.

By Rashi Sen