Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), the government body that develops the Emirate’s tourism infrastructure and initiates its domestic and overseas promotions, today announced its highest hotel occupancies in a quarter averaging 79.4% in the first three months of the year. The figures which are up 4% versus the same period in 2017 have been driven by ever growing visitor numbers in the region’s fastest growing tourism destination.
Overall visitor numbers increased by 12% in the first quarter versus 2017. This was largely driven by growth from international markets, which rose 18% year-on-year and now account for 70% of the total visitor arrivals to the Emirate. The UK and Nordics performed particularly strongly up 18% and 26% respectively year on year, while visitors from Poland grew by 46% and Czech Republic by 34%.The figures reinforce Ras Al Khaimah’s position as one to watch on the global stage, with Q1 progress well above the UNWTO forecasted global tourism growth of 4% in 2018.
The news was shared at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) which is being hosted in Ras Al Khaimah for the first time this year. Hotel performance indicators in the Emirate also continued their upward trajectory with the average length of stay increasing to 3.7 days year-to-date, an increase of 4.5% versus 2017, marking positive news for investors and hotel operators at AHIC.
The increased demand highlights the need for more hotel rooms and RAKTDA plans to grow its current resort portfolio from just over 5400 rooms to more than 10,000 by the end of 2020. Already, it is confirmed that 4,500 rooms will be added by the end of 2020 including the 5 star Anantara Resort at Mina Al Arab; the 5 star Avani Resort at Al Marjan Island; the 4 star Marriott Rak Beach at Al Ma’areedh; the 4-star Park Inn Rezidor at Al Marjan Island and the 4-star Rayhan Rotana at Khuzam. Al Marjan Island is also anticipated to have 15 hotels by 2025 and is a key focus for investment at AHIC, in addition to other beach, city and mountain clusters across the Emirate.
RAKTDA is also working on the development of a luxury camp project in Jebel Jais and is in talks with hotel operators and investors for this unique, eco-tourism project which complements the array of adventure tourism attractions that the Emirate is becoming globally known for.
Haitham Mattar, CEO of RAKTDA said: We’ve had a strong start to the year which is important as we look towards our goal of 1 million visitors by the end of 2018 and 2.9 million by 2025. Our hotel performance is a key indicator of our propensity to grow and with record hotel occupancies recorded in Q1 we need to continue our focus on meeting increased visitor demand with a broader range of accommodation.”
“With a number of prestigious, international brands opening hotels in Ras Al Khaimah in the run up to 2020 we are continuing to grow our tourism sector infrastructure and working with property and product developers to attract further investment. There is huge potential in the Emirate for entities looking to develop resorts, niche accommodation options and new tourism products and hosting AHIC this year will give us an opportunity to show delegates the incredible diversity of our offer.”
Developing tourism product remains an ongoing focus in the Emirate. The first quarter of 2018 saw the opening of Jebel Jais Flight: The World’s Longest Zipline which is helping to propel Ras Al Khaimah into the major league of global adventure tourism across the globe as well as cement Jebel Jais as the region’s capital of outdoor adventure sports. The zipline has already welcomed 5,000 visitors since opening and RAKTDA is planning to launch phase two to visitors in the third quarter of 2018. This will feature two new cables and will increase the capacity of the Jebel Jais Flight to 400 people per day, around 200,000 per year. In addition, night time ziplining will commence this summer, giving visitors the opportunity to enjoy a different experience whereby Jebel Jais is 10 degrees cooler than sea level. Further plans are in place for 2018 including the opening of official cycling and hiking routes on the mountains.
RAKTDA also continues to focus on strengthening its sports, events and MICE offer which includes hosting AHIC and The World Travel Awards for the very first time. The Happiness Festival in February attracted more than 30,000 visitors, while the Emirate is due to stage another concert on Jebel Jais on the 4-5 May following the huge success of Vivaldianno – the UAE’s first live classical music concert at 1600 metres – which was held last October. Prestigious global sporting events are also increasingly being attracted to the Emirate with the recent announcement that Ras Al Khaimah will host the Grand Final of the European Tour Challenge Tour season at the end of October, marking a significant milestone for golf in the UAE. The aptly named ‘Road to Rak’ will join other major sporting events in the destination calendar including the RAK Half Marathon in February which saw hotel bookings from participants increase by 35% year on year, and the RAK stage of the international Dubai Tour cycling race which was in its second successful year in 2018.