Iyad Rasbey, Executive Director, Destination Tourism Development, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, shares on various initiatives taken by the Authority for tourism
Ras Al Khaimah offers an entirely unique experience and has firmly established itself as one of the most authentic destinations in the Middle East with magnificent landscapes, breath-taking coastlines and rich and terracotta desert planes. Excerpts from the interview:
Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) recently launched ‘SelectRAK’ scheme. What are your expectations from this on developing tourism infrastructure in the Emirate?
SelectRAK was launched, together with Arton Capital – a Government Advisory Company, as a strategic initiative to boost tourism and economic activity through investment. Our goal is to further drive the reputation of Ras Al Khaimah as the place to invest in and as an affordable luxury destination with one of the region’s most picturesque settings.
A seamless and stress-free process, it supports investors not only in registering and operating international businesses from Ras Al Khaimah but also in finding a home in the Emirate and organising financial packages and medical insurance. It also provides long-term residence visas for those who meet the Government mandated criteria.
RAKTDA also launched summer campaign WANASA. How is the response from the market this year?
Our 2021 summer WANASA campaign was the first ever tactical campaign launched across both our domestic and international markets. The response to the campaign has been very strong, and we have seen a strong growth in the number of both domestic and international visitors.
WANASA was designed to capitalise on the positive momentum of previous campaigns, such as our summer 2020 ‘Shortcation’ campaign, which generated more than 15,000 room nights over three months and produced 65 million media impressions. This was followed by the equally successful ‘Funderful’ winter campaign, which boosted awareness of the diverse terrain of the Emirate, spanning expansive terracotta deserts, towering mountain peaks and pristine beaches.
According to Colliers International, RAK hotels may witness 90% occupancy in 2021. What is your take on this?
We are recording robust tourist arrivals and hotel occupancy this year, and the projection is in line with our strategic outlook. In fact, we lead the region in ADR (average daily rate) and RevPAR (revenue per available room) in 2020 and we see the same healthy performance in our ADR and RevPAR figures this year.
A key part of our success in driving high occupancy was due to the Emirate’s early and sustained action to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in global recognition as a safe destination for inbound tourism. The Emirate was the first city in the world to be certified ‘safe’ by the ‘SafeGuard Label’ from Bureau Veritas and the ‘Safe Travels Stamp’ from the World Travel and Trade Council. We were the first in the world to provide free return PCR testing and it's a service that we continue offering today. This complimentary service is now almost a year running and it helps mitigate the expenses for travelers, especially for families.
Ras Al Khaimah aims to attract 3 million visitors per year by 2030. What plans are in place to achieve this? How are you tweaking your marketing strategy in the changed scenario?
As the global travel and tourism industry starts to recover, destinations must operate in a ‘new normal’ and navigate the pandemic’s long-lasting effects. With our goal to welcome 3 million visitors per year by 2030, we have launched several new initiatives.
We announced a strategic vision for the Emirate in the new era of travel, aimed at tapping into the growing wellspring of traveller requirements – ambitions that go beyond the traditional holiday experience to encompass a sense of purposeful travel. In fact, we have announced plans to invest USD136 million in 20 sustainable tourism developments across the Emirate, in partnership with RAK Hospitality Holding and RAK Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as part of our new strategy.
We are also focusing on promoting the Emirate as a leading sporting destination in the Gulf. Ras Al Khaimah International Airport is currently undergoing its biggest expansion strategy and we are constantly adding new strategic airline partnerships to make the Emirate even more accessible to key source markets.
Where does India stand in your global scheme of things now?
India is a key source market for us, and we are continually assessing ways in which we can welcome more guests from this market. Ras Al Khaimah International Airport has recently welcomed expanded operations by SpiceJet, bringing in guests from six key cities in India, spanning Delhi, Mumbai, Cochin, Amritsar, Lucknow and Jaipur. Furthermore, we have a growing number of investors from India, who appreciate the robust business environment that Ras Al Khaimah offers.
Efforts are also underway to create safe and attractive offerings for MICE and wedding travel. We anticipate increased interest in our Emirate for destination weddings with travel restrictions from India continuing to lift.
Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah are attracting lot of Indians. How do you plan to tap this traffic? Or, are you looking at positioning RAK as a standalone destination in India?
India is a top source market for the UAE and Ras Al Khaimah has been successfully tapping into this market, with 80% of our international guests coming through Dubai International Airport (DXB). Aligned with the government’s supportive efforts, we have seen the destination gain the appeal of Indian visitors for its natural scenery, adventure tourism and more.
Which segments of travellers will your focus be on once tourism restarts?
Our tourism sector already records strong tourist arrivals, underpinned by the status as the world’s first ‘Safe’ destination. We welcome not just leisure tourists but also the MICE segment, which has recorded consisted growth in recent years.
Ras Al Khaimah is well positioned to provide an authentic and accessible Arabian experience that is diverse in its appeal. We are looking to diversify in Ras Al Khaimah’s tourism portfolio to attract a wider segment of tourists and higher yield visitors looking for authentic and unique experiences.
As a MICE friendly destination, we are ideally suited to business visitors and for hosting wedding celebrations.