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With well-es­tab­lished hos­pi­tal­ity mar­kets and a world-class free trade zone, Ras Al Khaimah has seen re­turns on in­vest­ment reach­ing dou­ble dig­its, to the ex­tent that ho­tel de­vel­op­ment on the Mar­jan Is­land is sur­pass­ing re­turns achiev­able in key projects across both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Filippo Sona, di­rec­tor, head of ho­tels, MENA re­gion at Col­liers, tells us more about the key tourism com­po­nents in the emi­rate

The emi­rate wel­comed 820,772 vis­i­tors in 2016, up al­most 11 per­cent on num­bers the pre­vi­ous year, with growth for 2017 reach­ing dou­ble dig­its

A com­pre­hen­sive of­fer­ing

Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) has achieved a place on the list of top 10 fastest-grow­ing des­ti­na­tions world­wide, as a re­sult of its on­go­ing ef­forts to de­velop world-class ho­tels and en­ter­tain­ment venues. With its mighty Ha­jar moun­tains dom­i­nat­ing the land­scape and rolling down to the shore, the emi­rate serves as a great base for sight­see­ing and ex­plor­ing its ex­panses of rugged ter­rain. The re­gion is also steeped in his­tory, with ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ex­ca­va­tions re­veal­ing that the area has been in­hab­ited since the third mil­len­nium BC. For vis­i­tors in­ter­ested in the his­tor­i­cal as­pect, the Ras Al Khaimah Na­tional Mu­seum does an ex­cel­lent job of ex­plain­ing the re­gion’s rich and fas­ci­nat­ing past.

Much of the city is mod­ern. How­ever, the at­mo­spheric Jazi­rat Al Hamra area is a ma­jor tourist at­trac­tion, pro­vid­ing a taste of the peace­ful emi­rati life of the pearl divers and fish­er­men be­fore the mid-20th­cen­tury oil boom.

RAK is pre­dom­i­nantly a leisure des­ti­na­tion, driven by both the do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional mar­kets. Leisure guests ac­count for up to

90 per­cent of de­mand in beach and desert re­sorts, which make up the largest seg­ment of sup­ply. The emi­rate wel­comed 820,772 vis­i­tors in 2016, up al­most 11 per­cent on num­bers the pre­vi­ous year, with growth for 2017 reach­ing dou­ble dig­its. Go­ing by the pace of growth over the last three years, RAK looks likely to hit its tar­get of wel­com­ing one mil­lion tourists by the end of 2018.

Di­verse lodg­ing op­tions

The RAK hos­pi­tal­ity mar­ket con­sists of a mix­ture of ho­tels and re­sorts, ser­viced apart­ments and guest­houses. The ma­jor­ity of guest­houses, ser­viced apart­ments and city ho­tels are lo­cated in or close to RAK City. Re­sorts, which dom­i­nate the mar­ket, are typ­i­cally sited to­wards the south of the coast­line as part of up­com­ing de­vel­op­ments, while two desert re­sorts of­fer al­ter­na­tive op­tions. The ho­tel mar­ket is led by Hil­ton World­wide, which cur­rently op­er­ates five prop­er­ties. Key changes to sup­ply in 2016 in­cluded the ex­pan­sion of the Dou­bletree by Hil­ton Al Mar­jan Is­land and the re­brand­ing of Banyan Tree Al Wadi Desert Re­sort to a Ritz Carl­ton Part­ner ho­tel. New open­ings in 2016 in­cluded the three- star Tulip Inn Ras Al Khaimah and five-star Jan­nah Re­sort & Vil­las.

Sup­port­ive ini­tia­tives

RAK’S ex­pan­sion plans will be in­stru­men­tal in help­ing the emi­rate to meet its growth tar­gets. Lead­ing the way are sev­eral ini­tia­tives that are ex­pected to raise the emi­rate’s tourism pro­file and fur­ther ce­ment its po­si­tion as a lead­ing leisure des­ti­na­tion. One of th­ese high-pro­file ini­tia­tives is the Ara­bian Ho­tel In­vest­ment Con­fer­ence, which takes place from April 14 to 17, 2018, within the grounds of the Al Hamra Vil­lage at the Wal­dorf As­to­ria Ho­tel. Due to RAK’S ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity, this year’s event looks set to wel­come record num­bers of vis­i­tors, with more than 800 in­vestors and se­nior ex­ec­u­tives from across the globe ex­pected to at­tend. In an­other key in­dus­try de­vel­op­ment, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (RAKTDA) opened new rep­re­sen­ta­tion of­fices in Shang­hai (for China) and Riyadh (for Saudi Ara­bia) to sup­port the emi­rate’s bid to reach its one-mil­lion-tourist mile­stone and tap new source mar­kets.

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