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Mon 11 Sep 2006 04:00 AM

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Ras Al Khaimah opens tourism board

Emirate working hard to carve niche market in MICE and sports

Ras Al Khaimah launched the RAK Tourism Promotion Board in July. The new tourism authority will endeavour to promote the emirate internationally. The RAK Tourism Promotion Board will also oversee a number of tourism developments currently on the drawing board, with plans for a media city, a convention and exhibition centre, a reclaimed island, several real estate developments, a mountain resort and additional golf courses.

“We will go wherever it is possible to present Ras Al Khaimah — including WTM, ITB, ATM and many other fairs worldwide,” said Dr. Khater Massaad, CEO, RAK Investment Authority, the government department overseeing the tourism board.

Major tourism developments in the emirate include the Mina Arab beachfront development by RAK Properties, which will include nine five-star hotels; the Al Hamra Palace hotel, which Dr. Massaad claims will be ‘an Arabian Palace’ to rival Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi; the Jebel Jais mountain resort, which will feature a ski slope and winter sports; and a 50,000m² convention centre.

“If you don’t attract the MICE market then you will never have people coming. You have to create the market,” he remarked.

“Ras Al Khaimah should have 20 hotels in five years time, and in ten years time probably 30-40 hotels, all at 350+ rooms, and we hope to have made enough promotion to fill these hotels,” Dr. Massaad said.

Already tourism developments are taking shape in the emirate, which saw the opening of the five-star Khatt Springs Hotel & Spa on June 1. General manager of the hotel, Nagarajan Udupa, is confident that his property, nestled at the foot of the mountains, will prove successful as a unique ‘get away from it all’ offering a high-tech spa facilities.

However, he urges tourism professionals to not get ahead of themselves in their ambition to put Ras Al Khaimah on the map. “We should aim to be the third [most recognised] emirate in the UAE,” he told Hotelier Middle East. “We should not compete with Dubai or Abu Dhabi, but create our own market.”

Getting people to Ras Al Khaimah is also on the agenda, with network airline RAK Airways set to take to the skies in January. “We have selected a very good management team from the aviation business and we think they will do a good job. RAK Airways will develop the airport; enhancing facilities for duty free and other services,” Dr. Massaad said.

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