By taking decisive, long-term action over the pandemic, the northernmost of the United Arab Emirates is now focused on a sustainable future.
25 SEPTEMBER 2021: Recovery from Covid is going to be challenging for the world’s travel industry. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the interruption of business has resulted in losses of almost $4.5 trillion to global GDP and the loss of more than 60 million jobs.
Public confidence in travel has been shattered and destinations that were popular before the pandemic are slowly discovering that they need to undergo radical changes to meet the needs of the post-Covid traveller.
Stringent requirements for enhanced hygiene protocols and greater social distancing are only part of the needs for the new normal. This month’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated unequivocally that human activity has caused global warming, and that carbon emissions must be urgently reduced. In tourism, as in all areas of human endeavour, that means working on sustainability too – and one destination is leading the way.
Ras Al Khaimah is the northernmost of the United Arab Emirates: 2,486 km² of desert, mountains, and Arabian Gulf shore. It was the first destination globally to be awarded the WTTC’s Safe Travels certification and the first to receive the Safeguard Assurance label from Bureau Veritas, and in a short film highlighting the Emirate’s astonishing natural assets, Tourism Development Authority CEO, Raki Phillips explains how Ras Al Khaimah emerged from the pandemic as a global leader in tourism for the new normal.
“In addition to that early certification we were the first destination to offer free PCR testing to visitors and embark on a comprehensive vaccination program for all tourism and hospitality workers,” he said. “And while arrival numbers globally dropped by around 75%, we went down by just 25%. Because of the measures we had in place, Ras Al Khaimah, unlike so many other destinations, did not have to close. Nor did we need to impose quarantine, allowing visitors to safely and freely enjoy this wonderful destination.”
With Covid protocols firmly embedded in Ras Al Khaimah’s tourism industry, Phillips is focusing on sustainability.“Being sustainable isn’t something new. It’s been around for over two decades. And it’s so important for us that it has to be part of the ethos of what we do here as a destination. We have partnered with sustainability experts EarthCheck, in order to achieve and exceed our goals”.
The Emirate has now made a £96 million investment into over 20 tourism projects that make the most of its wonderful natural environment. Ranging from desert campsites and eco-golf to mountain hiking and scallop diving, Phillips says activities and attractions will be “focused on sustainability and the new demands of the modern-day traveller.”
The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) was established in May 2011 under the government of Ras Al Khaimah. RAKTDA aims to develop the Emirate’s tourism infrastructure and establish Ras Al Khaimah as a world-class destination for leisure and business travel, creating sustainable investment opportunities and enhancing the quality of life for its residents. In order to achieve its goals, the Authority has a government mandate to license, regulate and monitor the Emirate’s tourism and hospitality industry.