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RAK expands niche tourism

posted on 09/07/2016: 1775 views



Travellers headed to Ras Al Khaimah often say that they are seeking a quiet place to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

This summer however, visitors to the emirate will be delighted with the wide range of activities on offer, as the emirate sets about expanding its tourism offerings for both international and local visitors.

Haitham Mattar, CEO of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAK TDA), explained that the emirate will be focusing on three key pillars - culture, adventure, and wellness - as part of its tourism strategy. He also revealed that there are big plans in the pipeline for the emirate, and that a lot of investment has gone into the projects currently in development and under construction.

"When you come into RAK from the other emirates, you can feel the serenity and relaxed atmosphere. The Arabic heritage and culture of RAK has been preserved, and we welcome international tourists to come and experience its Arabian authenticity," said Mattar. "One of the greatest advantages that we have here in RAK is that 35 per cent of the population are locals, so visitors have the chance to interact with them, and get an insider's view on RAK and its offerings."

Mattar also noted that a lot of the history of Arabia started in RAK. "We are the richest emirate in terms of historical and archaeological sites; we have historical sites that date back 7,000 years, as well as unique forts and stone houses in the mountains that date back 3,000 years."

For visitors searching for thrills and a bit of adventure, Ras Al Khaimah has plenty of plans in the pipeline.

"We are going to start offering mountain safaris, since we have a lot of fantastic mountain ranges, with Jebel Jais being the highest one in the UAE," said Mattar. "Visitors from across the UAE, and outside the country, can enjoy a beautiful ride up the mountains. Once you get closer to the top, you can enjoy the cooler weather and the beautiful views of the emirate."

He added: "We have also just built a via ferrata into the mountain. Professional climbers will be familiar with this term, which is Italian for the Iron Path. The via ferrata has rope bridges that allow you to cross from one mountain to another, and it has three zip-lines. It has been handed over to us and we will launch it just after the summer. The longest zip-line is 300m, and the shortest is 48m." Another unique addition to the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah will be an observation deck at 1,600m, overlooking the port and sea. This deck will have a number of F&B offerings and will, in theory, be very much like a national park.

Mattar also highlighted plans for a five-star camp in the mountains. "We are in discussions with some of the region's largest operators to operate this camp. It will have all the modern facilities to meet a camper's needs, but it will have a very traditional arabesque design. Our strategy is to attract a greater number of overnight campers. We want to provide them with basic amenities such as toilets and barbecue areas, and are currently looking at sites in the mountains for this."

For visitors that are only interested in relaxing for a few days and getting away from the stress of the city, Ras Al Khaimah has a lot to offer.

"We are envisioning a future where people will come to RAK for the sole purpose of wellness," said Mattar. "One of the advantages that we have over here is that we are known for our natural hot springs in Khatt. People from all over the UAE that know about it, come to RAK for its remedial purposes. We want to develop a spa around Khatt. Currently, it's in the design stage, but we will see it coming to life in the near future."

Also in the pipeline, Mattar revealed, are negotiations with popular spa operators across Europe. "We are looking to start developing this product more on Al Marjan Island. These spas will have a boutique hotel component, so you can have an accommodation as you relax during your break. Also, we are very focused on making sure that these spas will have a non-medicinal and remedial approach to help consumers with problems such as diabetes, cholesterol, and weight loss."

Nader Halim, general manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Ras Al Khaimah, said that the awareness of the emirate as a travel destination has grown tremendously over the last few years.

"A lot of work has been done by the RAK TDA to develop the emirate as a tourist destination for all kinds of travellers," Halim noted. "The emirate is also well positioned to promote itself as a worldwide tourism destination with the recent expansion of the airport, and several other investment projects in shopping malls and hotels."

To deal with the growing interest and greater visitor numbers, Halim revealed that the hotel had recently added 240 Bay Club rooms to the existing property. The property at Al Marjan Island now has a total of 725 rooms.

Mattar also revealed that the RAK TDA had recently launched a partnership with Seawings Lifestyle, which will be valid till the end of September. – Khaleej Times - http://www.khaleejtimes.com/business/local/rak-expands-niche-tourism

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