RAK in the spotlight
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