RAK in the spot­light

Gulf Business - - ANALYSIS - By Robert An­der­son

Once a sleepy week­end get­away for UAE res­i­dents, Ras Al Khaimah is rapidly trans­form­ing into an in­ter­na­tional des­ti­na­tion in its own right If you men­tioned the name Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) in many parts of the world five years ago, few would know to where you were re­fer­ring.

The UAE’s north­ern emi­rate has walked a far more mod­est path when it has come to draw­ing at­ten­tion to it­self than its sib­lings to the south – Dubai and Abu Dhabi – and as such has re­mained rel­a­tively un­known out­side the Gulf re­gion.

How­ever, fast for­ward to 2017 and times are chang­ing, par­tic­u­larly as re­duced eco­nomic sen­ti­ment and aus­ter­ity mea­sures hit travel in other parts of the re­gion.

First quar­ter data from STR shows av­er­age ho­tel rev­enue per avail­able room (RevPAR) in RAK up 2.5 per cent yearon-year in com­par­i­son to de­clines of 4 and 8 per cent re­spec­tively in neigh­bour­ing Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Sim­i­larly the emi­rate’s av­er­age oc­cu­pancy in­creased 6.2 per cent to 75.5 per cent in Q1 in con­trast to a 1.4 per cent dip across the Mid­dle East to 70.5 per cent.

“There has been a very good spill over of this fan­tas­tic growth in per­for­mance from last year,” says Ras Al Khaimah Tourism De­vel­op­ment Author­ity (RAKTDA) CEO Haitham Mat­tar.

“A lot of this is tes­ta­ment to the ac­tiv­i­ties and events that we have done through­out the year or ac­tu­ally through­out the past 18 to 24 months.”

RAKTDA, which was es­tab­lished in 2011 with the aim of at­tract­ing one mil­lion tourists to the emi­rate by the end of 2018, has been spear­head­ing ef­forts to boost Ras Al Khaimah’s stand­ing on a global level.

Over the past two years the or­gan­i­sa­tion has es­tab­lished rep­re­sen­ta­tive of­fices in key mar­kets such as the UK, In­dia, Saudi Ara­bia, Rus­sia and Ger­many to drive aware­ness of the des­ti­na­tion.

These ef­forts went into over­drive in 2016 with RAKTDA up­ping its mar­ket­ing spend by 85 per cent to boost part­ner­ships with key tourism agen­cies and air­lines and in­crease its attendance at trade shows.

And in the short term at least they ap­pear to have paid off. RAK saw an 11.3 per cent in­crease in in­ter­na­tional ar­rivals for the first three months of this year in com­par­i­son to 2016, while over­all vis­i­tors were up 8.3 per cent.

In the con­text of the wider GCC the emi­rate was also se­cond be­hind only Dubai in terms of RevPAR and av­er­age daily rate lev­els in the first quar­ter and third in terms of oc­cu­pancy, ac­cord­ing to STR data.

“If you look at RAK it’s one of the first re­sort mar­kets where it’s po­si­tioned at that much lower price point and it's get­ting good strong de­mand as a re­sult,” says Robin Ross­mann, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of STR.

“The re­gion needs to be able to con­tinue to ap­peal to lux­ury high end tourism but to hit tar­get num­bers they’ll need to get a wider range of peo­ple trav­el­ling in.”

With this in mind, RAK is look­ing to bal­ance its reliance on the tra­di­tional do­mes­tic mar­ket with in­ter­na­tional ar­rivals to di­ver­sify its rev­enue sources and in­crease its av­er­age length of stay from the 3.9 days seen in Q1.

Key to this, ar­gues Mat­tar, is high­light­ing the dif­fer­ent ter­rain and ex­pe­ri­ences of­fered in RAK in com­par­i­son to the neigh­bour­ing emi­rates, par­tic­u­larly given that around 90 per cent of in­ter­na­tional

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