Ras Al Khaimah’s tourism industry is in recovery mode, thanks to an emphasis on health and safety, new attraction launches, and three new visitor campaigns. The emirate’s efforts in 2020 and early 2021 have already led to results that show a strong promise for the path ahead.
With safety paramount in the minds of travellers amid the pandemic, Ras Al Khaimah has put in place extensive measures to be Covid-safe. This is why the Emirate introduced the ‘Stay Safe’ Hotels Certification last April. ‘Stay Safe’ provided guidance and accreditation to the emirate’s hotels regarding best practices and operating guidelines.
As a result, Ras Al Khaimah was the world’s first destination to be certified by Bureau Veritas, a leader in testing, inspection, and certification. It also became the UAE’s first emirate to receive the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Safe Travels Stamp.
In addition to testing all hospitality employees last year, Ras Al Khaimah continues to provide complimentary PCR testing to international visitors, to ensure that they are reassured of their safety when staying at hotels. The emirate offers a wide choice of accommodation – from ultra-luxurious beach resorts managed by renowned global brands, to family-friendly city and beach resorts – including properties by groups such as Waldorf Astoria, Hilton, Rixos, Rotana, Ritz-Carlton, Jannah, Citymax and City Stay.
In addition to exemplary hospitality, properties also offer unique guests experiences, such as the Ritz Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert, with its sprawling nature reserve and the chance for guests to interact with indigenous wildlife through dedicated walks and feeding experiences.
Meanwhile, the Longbeach Campground offers one-of-a-kind glamping experiences with both traditional tents on the beach, as well as luxury panoramic ‘glamping pods’. Families can also take part in activities such as sunset yoga, kayaking, beach volleyball, and pottery classes, or visit the on-site petting zoo.
There is a healthy upcoming inventory of more than 4,000 rooms scheduled to enter the market between now and 2023, with global brands opening new hotels including Intercontinental, Mövenpick, Hampton by Hilton and Anantara Mina Al Arab. Ras Al Khaimah’s emphasis on Covid safety underpins the local tourism sector’s launches and campaigns, which are essential to a continued, strong recovery.
The Emirate continues to expand its destination portfolio with last October witnessing a key launch at Jebel Jais. On their way to the top, visitors might see adventure-seekers testing themselves at the new Bear Grylls Explorers Camp, with multiple session options lasting up to 24 hours run by UK experts trained at the Bear Grylls Survival Academy.
The camp is a natural fit for Ras Al Khaimah, with a programme which includes orienteering, rock climbing, starting a fire without matches and dining around a campfire. This year, the camp is further expanding its offering with the world’s first Bear Grylls-branded accommodation. Looking ahead, the emirate will launch a series of nature-based projects atop Jebel Jais, including a pop-up hotel concept and a Mountain Lodge, located adjacent to the renowned hiking trails.
Tourists will also get to wind through mountain scenery in the Jais Coaster, a summer toboggan concept inspired by the Alps. Friends and families can also soon enjoy drive-through food trailers, kiosks, retail containers, vintage truck restaurants and a kids’ playground area at the food and beverage village or opt for a game of miniature golf at the putt-putt facility.
The transportation network to support these attractions has widened with the announcement that SCAT Airlines will connect Ras Al Khaimah with eight cities in Kazakhstan starting in March, as part of a partnership with the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA).
RAKTDA is further supporting the sector with three engaging and timely campaigns marking the Emirate’s second consecutive year as Gulf Tourism Capital. The ‘Live RAK Play’ campaign invites professionals from around the world to work remotely from the emirate for one to 12 months.
In this way, the emirate can benefit from the remote-working trend, while also enticing a new cohort of visitors. ‘Live RAK Play’ offers the digital nomads appealing hotel rates as well as discounts on dining, laundry, and car rentals. The offer spans 21 hotels, including the Doubletree by Hilton Ras Al Khaimah, Mughal Suites and Bin Majid Beach Hotel.
Aimed at local and international visitors, in the ‘Funderful’ campaign, guests at 4- and 5-star hotels are entered into draws for weekly prizes such as tickets to the Jais Sky Tour and Jais Sky Maze, as well as for the grand prize: a rent-free ocean-view apartment for a year.
The third campaign taps into the country’s artistic resources, while targeting Gen Z and millennial travellers. The ‘RAK Sessions’ capture performances by 10 emerging UAE-based musicians in settings that reflect the Emirate’s breadth. The videos range from Fafa, an Emirati-Honduran singer, performing “Tell the Ones You Love You Love Them” at the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, to the rapper TAC bringing his song “Might Be” to life in Wadi Shawka, a favoured spot for nature lovers.
Further highlights of the videos include Jindi, the Sudanese singer-songwriter who performs “At Me”, the first song shot entirely on the world’s longest zipline – the Jebel Jais Flight, as well as Dubai-based singer and fashion icon Layla Kardan, who launched her new song “I am a seed”, filmed at Dhayah Fort.
If there is a general point to be made from Ras Al Khaimah’s approach to tourism during the pandemic, it’s that hard times can be softened with persistence, ingenuity, and collaboration with partners. The numbers certainly show that the emirate’s strategy helped it weather the Covid storm.
Last year, Ras Al Khaimah had the highest ADR and RevPAR figures of any of the seven UAE emirates. ADR across Eid Al Adha, Eid Al Fitr and New Year’s Eve was higher than in the three years prior. Preliminary figures for the year show that 52% of the emirate’s visitors came from within the UAE and that top source markets included India, Great Britain, Russia, Egypt, Germany, and Jordan. Research by RAKTDA showed 94% visitor satisfaction, a healthy rate.
Looking ahead, Ras Al Khaimah sees expanded possibilities from the wider Middle East and international markets and is working closely with its international travel partners to continue attracting visitors while also adhering to Covid best practices. In this way, Ras Al Khaimah can keep advancing on its road to recovery.