Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), the government body that develops the Emirate’s tourism infrastructure and initiates its domestic and overseas promotions, has announced that international markets now account for 66% of overall visitors in the first half of 2018.
RAKTDA has announced a 14% increase in international visitors during the first six months of the year. This is ahead of the UNWTO forecast of 4% tourism growth in the Middle East in the first half of 2018 and demonstrates the ongoing strength of Ras Al Khaimah as an emerging tourism destination.
International markets accounted for 66% of visitor arrivals from January to June 2018, with a significant increase in Russian visitors, up 50% year-on-year. Germany remained the second biggest source market, up 4%, followed by the UK with an increase of 13% on 2017. The Nordic region also remained strong, seeing 21.3% growth since the start of the year. Emerging markets also continued their upward trajectory with Czech Republic up 34%, Kazakhstan up 22.1%, and Poland up 6.3% versus that same period last year. In the region, overall growth from the Global Cooperation Council (GCC) increased 4.6% with visitors from Saudi Arabia now topping the arrivals list.
The first half of the year saw the expansion of adventure tourism activities in what is fast becoming known as the region’s adventure tourism hub, recently awarded the World Travel Award for Middle East’s Leading Adventure Tourism Destination 2018. Jebel Jais Flight: The World’s Longest Zipline welcomed over 10,000 riders. Phase two of the zipline is set to launch at the end of this year and will feature an additional zipline cable to enhance capacity together with an adventure park. In response to growing visitor numbers, further development is planned to include a 37 room Luxury Mountain Camp expected in December 2019; a Survival Training Academy due for completion in Q3 2019, and 64.72km of Hiking and Mountain Biking Trails opening next year.
Hotel Performance also remained strong in the first half of the year with occupancy rates consistent at 73.3% and average room rate increasing 5.5% versus the same period last year.
Supply of hotel keys is a major focus moving forward to support the increasing popularity of the destination with both international and domestic tourists. Plans are in place to add 5,600 rooms to the 6,500 currently available in the Emirate with the introduction of major global brands including Marriott, Movenpick, Sheraton, Anantara, Rezidor, Intercontinental, Hampton by Hilton and Crowne Plaza over the next three years. The aim is to further increase to more than 12,000 hotel rooms by 2022 to accommodate the ever-growing number of visitors.
Haitham Mattar, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority said: “With international arrivals to the Emirate rising by 14% in the first half of the year, we are on track to exceed our projection of 1 million visitors by the end of the year. Our focus remains on sustainable development with new products and accommodation to meet the growing demand. This will form an integral part of our Destination 2019-2021 strategy which will be released in Q4.”
“Jebel Jais remains core to our proposition as we look to capitalize on the global adventure tourism industry and secure further interest from investors in this growing segment. With the right investment and the use of best practice to develop sustainable tourism, we envision a globally recognized destination attracting 3 million visitors and contributing 3.5 billion AED to the Emirate’s GDP by 2025,” Mattar added.
RAKTDA is also further strengthening its MICE, sports and events offered in 2018 and beyond. The first half of the year saw the first Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) hosted in Ras Al Khaimah and last week RAKTDA announced that the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) will bring delegates from the UK for their annual conference in November. Prestigious global sporting events are also increasingly attracted to the Emirate with the recent announcement that Ras Al Khaimah will host the Grand Final of the European Tour Challenge Tour - also known as The Road to Ras Al Khaimah - at the end of October, marking a significant milestone for golf in the Emirate.