Exclusive to The Middle East Online . . . Ras Al Khaimah’s major tourism expansion

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Rhona Wells reports from the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai

Speaking at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai, Haitham Mattar, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Tourism Development Authority (TDA),  revealed the emirate’s exciting plans for the future expansion.

“Ras Al Khaimah saw 730,000 visitors last year, with the 2015 target set at 850,000 by year-end. Over the next two years, we will be adding over 1,000 new rooms to accommodate the tourism growth,”Mattar said. The rooms will range from mid-scale service apartments to five-star luxury destination resorts.

“Al Marjan Island is one of our main stays, with the 2.7 million square feet of land ready to accommodate 30 new hotels, which would add around 15,000 room keys to the emirate by 2022,” Mattar said before going on to note that the emirate was on target with its influx of tourists, with RAK recording a 26% year-on-year increase for the first quarter of 2015.  “Ras Al Khaimah achieved 2.14 million guest nights in 2014, a massive 72% increase on 2013 performance with a recorded total revenue growth of 44%, positioning Ras Al Khaimah as one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world,” the CEO noted.

The first quarter of 2015 recorded a jump in the average number of visitors to Ras Al Khaimah of  17%  with an increase in room revenue of 12%.
Visitors from within the GCC are growing at 51% while tourists from India and China have shown growth of  81%, and 63% respectively, followed by Eastern European visitors, who have recorded a 40% increase in numbers.

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With 5,000 hotel rooms in RAK at present, the emirate is looking to add a further 1,000 rooms by 2017.

In a joint venture between ASQ, the private investment vehicle of  Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, and Marriott International, a new five-star, 300-key luxury beach front hotel is to be built.
The Ras Al Khaimah Marriott Resort, which is the hotelier’s first property in the emirate, will have 45 suites, extensive meeting, health and leisure facilities, and six F&B outlets.It will be located in the northern part of the emirate, enjoying direct access to a private beach, and with the Hajjar Mountains as its beautiful and dramatic backdrop.

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The deal was inked this week by Marriott International’s Global CEO Arne Sorenson and Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saqr Al Qasimi at the Ras Al Khaimah stand at the 2015 Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.This is the first of two new hotel properties set to be built within the RAK Free Trade Zone.

Mattar also revealed the emirate was in talks to draw interest with international carriers. “We are in talks with global airlines about using RAK International Airport as an operational base, which will ultimately support over 400,000 visitors flying in and out of the airport directly on an annual basis. We expect to be able to make an announcement within the coming weeks.” said Mattar.

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