Ras Al Khaimah, while focusing on major India metros, is also engaging in co-marketing agreements with travel agents and tour operators targeting secondary cities in India. Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) has adopted a multi-pronged approach, with a focus on sustainability, to strengthen its position in the India market. Iyad Rasbey, Vice President, Destination Tourism Development, RAKTDA shares his perspective on India.
In the changed global scenario, how important is India as a source market for you? What was the Indian arrival numbers in 2022 and what is your expectation from 2023?
India is an incredibly important market and is in fact one of top five source markets for us at Ras Al Khaimah. In 2022, we welcomed over 140,000 Indian visitors to the emirate and we are optimistic about the potential growth in arrivals to our destination this year. As the Indian market becomes more familiar with the destination, and with direct connectivity from Mumbai via Indigo airlines and our constant efforts to strengthen our ties with this market, we believe that Ras Al Khaimah will remain a popular choice for Indian travelers seeking an unforgettable vacation experience.
What promotional and marketing activities have you planned for India market to tap the new age travellers?
We have planned several promotional and marketing activities targeting 28 cities that will allow us to reach out to a receptive travel audience and engaged trade partners to showcase the unique experiences that Ras Al Khaimah has to offer.
One of our key strategies is to focus on digital marketing, which has become increasingly important in today’s world. We have made sure that our website, social media channels, and marketing collaterals are all digital-first, making it easier for the new age traveler to discover Ras Al Khaimah’s offerings. We also plan to launch a dedicated page catering to the Indian market on social media, which will allow us to engage with Indian travelers directly and share information about the destination’s attractions, experiences, and events.
In addition, we are also engaging in co-marketing agreements with travel agents and tour operators targeting secondary cities in India. We believe that these partnerships will enable us to reach out to a wider audience and showcase our destination’s unique selling points.
Finally, we have an active calendar various trade shows, webinars, roadshows, and exhibitions to connect with the Indian travel trade and create awareness about the Emirate’s offerings. These events will provide us with an opportunity to connect and network with key stakeholders and decision-makers in the Indian travel industry and showcase our destination’s diverse array of offerings.
What is the digital marketing roadmap for this year?
Prior to sketching out our 2023 digital marketing roadmap, it was imperative for us to identify last year’s successes and record any emerging and ongoing digital marketing and social media trends to apply in our strategy this year. Speaking with leading creative and content agency Beautiful Destinations and its founder Jeremy Jauncey, we know that 65% of millennial and Gen Z consumers believe their digital identity is more important than their physical one. Of these, 90% will book travel based on what they see on social media. We also found that vertical, short-form video frames – constituting 57% of all worldwide video plays last year – were beneficial in attracting audience attention and retaining their interest. We witnessed the success of such innovative content first-hand with our mega-successful destination marketing campaign, #RAKCalling, that launched last year. Garnering 25.95M digital video views, including massive viewership on our short-form videos, proved that the format is indeed beneficial and will continue to form a key component of our upcoming strategies and campaigns.
How is the development on tourism and related infrastructure front?
An important step in driving Ras Al Khaimah’s continued growth as a destination of the future is remaining laser-focused on responsible, purpose-driven and focused developments.
As part of our considered development planning, we will be working with sustainably minded hotel brands, such as Nobu, Marriott, Sofitel, Anantara and the eagerly awaited Wynn resort.
Since these developments were announced, we have received additional investment interest – including acquisitions from Aldar Properties of the Doubletree by Hilton Resort & Spa and an adjoining beachfront plot, following its acquisitions of Al Hamra Mall and Rixos Bab Al Bahr earlier this year. This is in addition to recent acquisitions from Marjan Hospitality of two large beachfront plots on Marjan Island.
Finally, we are investing in the Cultural Conservation of our four UNESCO heritage sites – Julphar, Shimal, Dhayah Fort and Al Jazeerah Al Hamra – leading with a multi-phased refurbishment of Al Jazeerah Al Hamra, the last-surviving pearl fishing village of its kind in the Arabian Gulf.
What sort of global best practices are you planning to adopt on sustainability and green fronts this year?
Sustainability is essential to achieving growth and is at the heart of everything we are doing at Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority. It is our vision to become a regional leader in sustainable tourism by 2025. Our goal is to apply sustainability to everything we do to nurture a tourism industry that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable, and supports quality of life for our citizens and workforce.
Nature and our wide-open spaces are the calling card of our destination and in order to protect our unique natural environment and local communities, we are committed to ensuring that there is no over tourism in Ras Al Khaimah. For example, we have a adopted a measured approach with a controlled pipeline of hotels, which will feature wide landscaping and grounds, and have committed USD 136 million investment to ensure we are developing attractions with purpose that will enhance our natural environment.
We are also implementing a series of sustainability measurement and certification programmes, with an aim to reaffirm tourism’s potential as a force for good. Significant progress has already been made towards achieving this, with the Authority receiving the EarthCheck Bronze Certification and enlisting 30 hotels and attractions into the programme to co-create sustainable practices and ensure common benchmarking. We have also launched a Tourism Business Accreditation Program with the aim to provide a management framework to help individual businesses grow their sustainability efforts as a means of benchmarking their performance. It is anticipated that over 20 businesses will receive tourism certifications in the first year of the program. Additionally, we have launched the Destination Certification Program, with the ultimate goal of obtaining the internationally recognised “Sustainable Tourism Destination” certificate for Ras Al Khaimah in 2023.
This sustainable approach to development is the cornerstone of our ambition to attract 3 million visitors by 2030.
Any factor that is hindering the growth from India…
India is a vast country with 28 states and significant geographic spread. To truly unlock the potential of the Indian market, we are expanding our reach to more cities.
We see great potential for growth in the hospitality sector in Ras Al Khaimah, particularly with the introduction of new hotel brands and destination wedding venues. The emirate has seen a surge in hotel development in recent years, with many international hotel brands establishing a presence here. We have also witnessed a significant increase in the demand for destination weddings, and Ras Al Khaimah is well-positioned to cater to this market. Our stunning natural landscapes, beautiful beaches, and world-class hotel properties make us an ideal destination for couples seeking a unique wedding experience.
By continuing to attract new hotel brands and growing our destination wedding offerings, we are confident that Ras Al Khaimah will remain a popular choice for travelers from India. These developments not only provide opportunities for growth in the hospitality sector but also contribute to the overall growth of the tourism industry and the economy of the emirate.
Another factor is direct air connectivity to Ras Al Khaimah from more cities across India. This will not only make it easier for travellers to visit our destination but will also help us reach a wider audience. We believe that increasing the number of direct flights from more cities across India could potentially ease travel from multiple locations and drive growth from the Indian market.