Less than an hour north of the glitz and glamour of Dubai, another, more natural emirate is gaining attention from international tourists and some of the biggest hotel names in the world.
Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) is making the most of its kaleidoscope of natural settings, where mountains, desert, mangroves and 64km of largely untouched beach come together in a rare haven for outdoor enthusiasts and holidaymakers looking to escape manic city life.
The RAK government has only recently begun to harness the potential in its beauty, establishing the RAK Tourism Development Authority in 2011. In that time, tourist numbers have doubled to a projected 1.2 million this year and international hotel brands from Hilton and Waldorf Astoria to Rotana, Rixos and Crowne Plaza have been climbing over each other for their spot along the coastline, which is fast filling with secluded resorts.
International tour operators are so enticed by RAK that they are organising charter flights from countries such as Germany and Russia, where the majority of RAK tourists originate.
In 2010, tourism accounted for two percent of the RAK economy. That has grown to five percent and is anticipated to reach nine percent by 2017 and 20 percent by 2021, generating $1bn annually.
“Tourism has a broad impact across the economy as the growing numbers of tourists increase opportunities for other types of businesses as well as hotels,” RAK Tourism Development Authority director Khalid Motik says. “As well as GDP growth we anticipate that tourism will play a larger role in the economic lives of more local residents.”
There are big plans for the emirate. But Motik says everything will be based on making use of, and maintaining, the unique landscape.
“We have a plan to expand our [hotel room] inventory, also to develop the corniche and also to add more activities to attract people,” he says. “The vision is to keep more natural.
Article continued on next page