Ras Al Khaimah Is the Next Hot International Tourist Destination

Tourism has long been important to Ras Al Khaimah, a low-key emirate in the UAE’s northern region. Under the guidance of His Highness Sheik Saud Bin Saqr al Qasimi, long-running efforts to attract more visitors to this beautiful seaside region have taken another leg up.

According to a report in Trade Arabia, RAK’s key leaders (including the Sheik himself) recently met to discuss several critical tourism initiatives for the coming years. Here’s a summary of their discussions and a preview of what visitors to the emirate can expect in the years ahead.

Adding New Hotels

Trade Arabia reported that RAK plans to add at least 10,000 hotel rooms by 2022 — a staggering increase for an emirate without the global profile of Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Many of these rooms will be found in high-end luxury hotels similar to the Waldorf Astoria location in which the recent tourism meeting took place.

Boosting Visitor Counts

Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr al Qasimi and his fellow leaders want to welcome at least 1 million visitors to Ras al Khaimah by 2018. This goal is already well on track — more than 700,000 visitors passed through the emirate last year. For international service firms, including U.S.-based franchise restaurants, the prospect of an additional 300,000 visitors within a few years is truly tantalizing.

Targeting the Chinese Market

Due to its relative proximity and the increasing affluence of its middle class, China has long been an important “source market” for the UAE’s tourism sector. Trade Arabia recently reported that RAK’s leaders, including Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr al Qasimi, had outlined concrete steps to boost the number of RAK-bound tourist trips originating in the Middle Kingdom.

The most visible prong in RAK’s China-facing tourism strategy was on display at the recent MeetChina summit in Abu Dhabi, where more than 70 representatives from top Chinese travel firms met and mingled with the emirate’s leaders. According to officials working under Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr al Qasimi, China could provide a significant fraction of the visitors necessary to reach the emirate’s target of 1 million trips in 2018.

Driving Policy Research

Since tourism is so critical to RAK’s economy and global visibility, the effort to attract tourists to Ras Al Khaimah is a truly collaborative effort. The emirate’s entire business community, even sectors that don’t directly serve tourists, is involved in one way or another.

But one organization in particular finds itself at the heart of the ongoing drive to transform RAK into a 21st century tourist destination: the Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, known informally as the Al Qasimi Foundation.

Established by decree under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr al Qasimi, the Foundation is dedicated to “generating a world-class body of research on Ras Al Khaimah and the broader UAE, developing local capacity in the public sector, and engaging the community in its work.” Initially founded with a focus on education throughout the emirate, the organization has dramatically expanded its purview and now serves as a powerful complement to official government departments. Many tourists who flock to Ras Al Khaimah in the coming years will have the Al Qasimi Foundation to thank for turning them on to this beautiful, historic corner of the UAE.