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Innovation in Tourism: Building the numbers

Haitham Mattar, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) talks about the growth of the emirate in 2017 and what lies ahead…

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Ras Al Khaimah celebrated its most successful tourism year in 2017, with the emirate welcoming record visitor numbers, launching new flagship products, and opening a number of new hotels.

A key task for us at Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) in our role of developing and regulating the emirate’s tourism infrastructure and initiating its domestic and overseas promotions, has been to position Ras Al Khaimah as more than just sun, sea and sand.

Since the introduction of the our Destination Strategy 2019, RAKTDA has effectively implemented a three dimensional and targeted strategy across our core and emerging markets, positioning the emirate towards active adventurers, cultural explorers and wellness seekers.

Ras Al Khaimah as a destination has a wealth of natural attributes, and through sustainable feasibility studies, we have been able to focus on activities to promote these attractions, including some of the finest beaches – stretching 64 kilometers – and nature in the region, the highest mountain in the UAE, a unique terracotta desert, 7,000 years of history and heritage, as well as authentic Arabian cultural experiences.

The Adventurous Trail

Forming the focus of recent development in the emirate, we have been looking to capitalise on Jebel Jais’ existing popularity with hikers, bikers and adventure sporting enthusiasts. In December last year, we launched the region’s first commercial Via Ferrata, which during its inaugural season saw more than 1,000 visitors take on the 1,542 feet iron path course across its mountain face, and three zip lines measuring 165 feet, 195 feet and 985 feet in length.

The Jebel Jais Via Ferrata, which has opened for its second season, symbolises just the start of things to come for the emirate with additional products scheduled to open soon. Expanding upon the thrill, the pending opening of the world’s longest zip line will certainly enhance the emirate’s appeal as the Middle East’s Favourite Adventure Destination.

Additionally, Jebel Jais will see the opening of the Viewing Deck Park this year, providing a 15,400 square metre park with seven viewing decks, equipped with binoculars, restroom facilities, and on-site parking for 74 vehicles. It is hoped that the opening will encourage more visitors to the area and to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

The Sustainable Approach 

It is not only about product launches that Ras Al Khaimah has excelled on this year, RAKTDA became the official sponsor of the UNWTO International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017 with the aim to promote a more sustainable global tourism landscape. As part of its support for the initiative, the authority participated in the dedicated steering committee, sharing best practices and driving development among global tourism peers.

Through our partnership and involvement in this year-long campaign, RAKTDA has set a clear vision in transforming the emirate’s natural gifts into tourism assets to benefit all. This has included the sourcing of investment and operation for the creation of three new eco-friendly adventure based projects on the UAE’s highest mountain Jebel Jais – positioning it as the nature adventure hub of the middle east, and complementing the offering of the neighbouring emirates.

As we look on to 2018, RAKTDA is committed to promoting new adventure tourism products and destination Jebel Jais to further increase visitor numbers to the emirate, as well as expansion into new source markets across northern and central Europe, where we are seeing good growth in visitors, as well as attracting additional hotel investment that is needed to increase room supply in order to meet demand.