Saturday, December 16, 2017

Cover Story


RAK scales new heights with Jebel Jais
December 2017 2405

Ras Al Khaimah has been a hot bed of activity ever since Haitham Mattar took over the helm of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority as its CEO. The most recent in a chain of announcements from the emirate has been the launch of the world’s longest zipline on December 4.

With international tourism arrivals to the emirate rising nine per cent year-on-year in the first nine months of 2017, Ras Al Khaimah is on course to reach its target of 900,000 visitors by the year end. “We are also optimistic about attaining our goal of a million visitors by the end of next year and 2.9 million by the end of 2025,” said Mattar.

“As we draw closer to reaching these targets, the need for quality hotel rooms has never been so important. We are working closely with travel and tourism stakeholders to ensure we attract the right brands and accommodation options to support sustainable growth across the emirate,” added Mattar.

Currently offering just over 5,000 hotel rooms, Ras Al Khaimah’s increasing hotel and resort portfolio is expected to grow by more than 4,000 rooms by 2020. Most of these developments will be on Al Marjan Island, reports the CEO. They will be beachfront resorts but two or three will be in the city as well.

 

JEBEL JAIS AS BEACON

The focus of Ras Al Khaimah’s recent activities has really been the Jebel Jais mountain, with the opening of the Via Ferrata last year. It has been marketed as a mini destination within Ras Al Khaimah. Mattar agrees, “Jebel Jais gives us the opportunity to differentiate ourselves from other emirates. While Dubai has the great Burj Khalifa, we have the highest mountain in the UAE. Our real focus is to position Ras Al Khaimah as a major force in adventure tourism in the Middle East.”

Addressing a BBC panel debate on the travel patterns of affluent millennials, held in London to coincide with the World Travel Market (WTM), Mattar revealed millennials are now a prime target for the emirate. “Ras Al Khaimah has what it takes when it comes to ticking millennial boxes,” said Mattar. “They want authenticity and the emirate has it in spades; they want meaningful, off-the-radar experiences and the ability to connect with culture, which again we excel in; and they have a desire to soak up natural sights, which is a key pillar of our offering.”

That is not to rule out families, he is quick to add. Families with children constitute about 70 per cent of visitors to Ras Al Khaimah and millennials would add a good balance to this.

 

WHAT LIES AHEAD

The year 2018 will see more concerts in Jebel Jais, on the lines of the sold-out Vivaldianno concert held in October this year, and a few instalments of the successful Destination Dawn – 12-hour beach festivals on Al Marjan Island. In January, there will be a winter festival, not unlike a Christmas market with Ferris Wheels on Jebel Jais. “In February, Jebel Jais actually has snow, so we are planning something around it. Imagine natural snow in the UAE… We are also planning a 365-day heritage village in the Old Town area, next to Ras Al Khaimah’s oldest mosque on the beach. This is in design phase now.”

The emirate is also hosting some major Mice business. After 13 successful years in Dubai, Arabian Hotel Investment Conference is moving to Ras Al Khaimah in 2018. The DRV, which is the largest travel association in Germany, will host their annual meeting in Ras Al Khaimah with 850 delegates.

Indian weddings have become popular. Last year, Ras Al Khaimah hosted four of these, this year the number has risen to 16 (November data) and next year Mattar expects at least 20 Indian weddings to take place in his emirate.


RAS AL KHAIMAH
Haitham Mattar
Jebel Jais
Via Ferrata





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