First Published: 2017-08-04

Ras al-Khaimah’s new facilities attract adventure tourists
Multi-purpose observation deck near the Jebel Jais summit at an elevation of 1,227 metres above sea level is set to open in October.
Middle East Online

By N.P. Krishna Kumar - DUBAI

A couple enjoys the moment at Dhayah Fort in Ras al-Khaimah.

Ras al-Khaimah, the north­ernmost emirate in the United Arab Emirates and the region’s fastest-growing tourism destina­tion, is upping the ante in its quest to be the Middle East’s adventure tourism capital.

With a 7,000-year history, the emirate is blessed with an incred­ibly diverse landscape comprising 64 kilometres of pristine beaches, golden desert, mangroves, abun­dant wildlife, nature and moun­tains that are 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the emirate.

Jebel Jais, the highest peak in the country at 1,934 metres above sea level, is most inviting to mountain hikers, motorists, adventure seek­ers and those wanting to explore the flora and fauna of the Al Hajar Mountains bordering Oman.

Haitham Mattar, CEO of Ras al- Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), stressed the growing popularity of the emirate is resulting in “weekend pressure.”

“While having more hotels would be one way to solve the problem and encourage repeat travel, which is important in terms of boosting revenue, we also need to find ways to encourage domestic visitors to book in advance,” he said.

For many families in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, getting out during the weekend has meant a drive to Ras al-Khaimah and booking a relax­ing weekend and an ideal getaway from everyday life.

The adventure-minded and out­door enthusiasts also head to Ras al-Khaimah, whether it is for desert camping, sailing and water sports, golf, kayaking, mountain hiking, cycling or motoring to the summit of Jebel Jais.

For those seeking to explore cul­ture, heritage and natural history there are wadis in the mountains or the Dhayah Fort — the only hill­top fort in the UAE that was the last point of resistance to British forces.

Ras al-Khaimah’s tourism strat­egy is largely based on highlighting nature and adventure, the emirate’s strengths, Mattar said at the Arabi­an Travel Market. The emirate also worked with travel and tourism partners, conservation and cultural organisations to showcase its his­tory and heritage.

The number of visitors to Ras al-Khaimah reached 390,499 from January through June 2017, an in­crease of 6.5% in arrivals compared to last year. Hotel guest nights and lengths of stay also went up. Hotels reported their best summer perfor­mance with a 27% year-on-year in­crease in June guest arrivals.

Officials said they were confident the emirate was on course to reach 900,000 visitor arrivals this year, being “in a solid position to opti­mise the traditional peak season of late summer and the fourth quar­ter.”

In April, RAKTDA launched a dedicated summer campaign called “Feel Free this Summer,” which runs through September, leverag­ing the emirate as an ideal summer holiday destination.

The UAE remains the most sig­nificant source market for Ras al- Khaimah with more than one-third of visitors being domestic.

“Our ‘Feel Free’ push plugs into everything that is great about Ras al-Khaimah as a multifaceted tour­ism destination,” Mattar said. “In addition to offering fantastic value for money, we have focused on pro­moting our amazing landscapes.”

Recently, Thomas Cook an­nounced plans to open its first own-brand hotel in the UAE in Ras al-Khaimah in November. It is to feature 253 chalets, a private beach, three pools, a spa and dining out­lets. In a marketing agreement with RAKTDA, Thomas Cook will pro­mote the emirate as a year-round leisure destination for European tourists.

Internationally, Ras al-Khaimah’s four largest source markets remain Germany, Russia, Britain and India. Russia is ahead of Britain as the emirate’s second largest interna­tional source market. Britain and India rank third and fourth, with gains of 21% and 22%, respectively, year-on-year.

The half-year figures showed a significant increase in tourist arriv­als from other emerging destina­tions: Kazakhstan, up 16%; Poland, up 224%; and the Czech Republic, up 81%.

As part of its emerging attrac­tions, the emirate launched Jebel Jais Via Ferrata (Iron Path) — a cross between rock climbing and moun­taineering — in December 2016. The inaugural season of the kilometre-long path had a successful run and has been a hit with sporting enthu­siasts from the Gulf and Europe.

A multi-purpose observation deck and event area near the Jebel Jais summit at an elevation of ap­proximately 1,227 metres above sea level is to open in October.

Official cycling and hiking routes across the emirate — with a focus on Jebel Jais — are also in develop­ment.

Ras al-Khaimah is targeting 1 mil­lion visitors by next year and, judg­ing by the attractions and facilities being put in place that appeal to a wide range of visitors, the opti­mism of tourism officials seems well-founded.

N.P. Krishna Kumar is an Arab Weekly correspondent in Dubai.

Copyright ©2017 The Arab Weekly.

 

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