Q&A: Haitham Matter, Ras Al Khaimah Development Authority

Q&A: Haitham Matter, Ras Al Khaimah Development Authority

Travel Daily Media catches up with Haitham Matter, Ras Al Khaimah Development Authority during WTM 2017.

Haitham Matter, Ras Al Khaimah Development Authority

 

How is tourism Ras Al Khaimah performing?

Our ongoing commitment with working with the travel trade, both in the UK and internationally, has seen tourism to Ras Al Khaimah increase dramatically.

In 2016, we welcomed 820,772 visitors to the destination, a growth of 10.9% year-on-year, and our overall hotel occupancy jumped to 72.7%, an increase of 4.7%.

We also saw growth across all our key performance indicators, with total room nights up 17%, the average length of stay increasing by 10.5% and room revenue increasing by 13.3%. Hotels within our private sector also reported a 27% increase on guest arrivals in June.

The UK remains one of our largest source markets, and we were pleased to see that visitation from the UK increased by 34.9% last year.

With these figures, Ras Al Khaimah is on track to welcome 900,000 visitors in 2017. By the end of 2018, our target is to reach one million visitors.

 

What new developments does Ras Al Khaimah have to offer adventure seekers? What’s its strategy for promoting this? Why adventure?

Ras Al Khaimah is one of the most beautiful destinations in the UAE. We have 64km of pristine coastline, the highest mountains in the UAE and a plethora of natural attractions such as natural pools, hot springs, mangroves and our vast terracotta desert for visitors to enjoy.

This year, we are pleased to launch a number of tourism products on Jebel Jais, the UAE’s tallest peak. Designed to transform Ras Al Khaimah into the UAE’s adventure capital, this December we will open the world’s longest and highest zipline which will span across Jebel Jais, a whopping 1,900 metres above sea level.

The zipline will complement our Via Ferrata iron path, which will also reopen for its second season with an expansion to allow up to 200 people to experience it.

This year, we will open an observation deck close to the summit of Jebel Jais for the first time. The observation deck will serve not only as a viewing platform, which will offer visitors the perfect selfie opportunity, but act as a base for visitors to enjoy events, picnics, dine on street food at the food truck zone, and explore more of the area from.

 

What other attractions are there in Ras Al Khaimah?

The Ras Al Khaimah Development Authority is also developing new cycling and hiking trails across the emirate. Our goal is to become the premier adventure destination within the Middle East.

For visitors looking for a softer experience, we are also developing a robust events program which will highlight our cultural, musical and sporting attractions.

In addition to Arabian nature and adventure, Ras Al Khaimah emphasises culture-based experiences. Visitors can explore 18 archaeological sites across the emirate, from Sheba’s Palace of ancient Arabia to Dhayah Fort, a 16th-century military stronghold.

Attractions such as Bedouin Oasis Camp offer authentic reproductions of life in the emirate as it used to be, and you can participate in traditional activities, including camel rides and falconry shows.

 

What has Ras Al Khaimah promoted at WTM?

This year at World Travel Market, we announced the launch of our new e-learning training platform. The Raktravelmaster.com site is an interactive e-learning platform that will help agents become experts on all things Ras Al Khaimah, and currently offers three modules which focus on the general destination, adventure and culture.

Agents who complete the training program will also gain added benefits, such as discounts, places on FAM trips and the chance to participate in exclusive workshops and RAK events.

We are also pleased to announce the opening of Thomas Cook’s newest own-brand hotel in Ras Al Khaimah. Named the Smartline Ras Al Khaimah Beach Resort the property is the latest addition to our hotel product. Currently we have more than 5,000 hotel rooms, and with new properties planned by global names such as Marriott, Movenpick, Sheraton, Anantara, Rezidor, Intercontinental and Avani, we look to increase this by 4,445 rooms by the end of 2020.

 

What are Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority’s plans and strategies for 2018?

Continuing our effort internationally, we plan on continually developing our tourism offering to ensure we are one of the leading destinations in the UAE.
We will work with tour operators around the world to continually develop product that is attractive to international visitors.

Currently we are on track to reach our tourism targets in 2017 and we look forward to welcoming one million visitors by the end of 2018.

Jill Sayles
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Jill Sayles
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