Clear goals: Authorities aim for steady expansion

The tourism sector is growing and changing rapidly. Not only are more tourists travelling to the emirate, tourism infrastructure is also being expanded. The government has recognised the importance and potential of transforming the sector and has recently taken steps to ensure continued and steady growth. In May 2011 the government set up the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAK TDA). The new organisation has the responsibility of promoting the emirate as a vacation destination and has been given authority to license and regulate the tourism industry.

SETTING TARGETS: RAK TDA aims to raise the total number of annual tourists to 1.2m by end-2013. The development authority is also targeting to add 10,000 hotel rooms by 2016. The government has backed up the newly established RAK TDA with plans to invest $500m in tourism projects in the near term . RAK TDA is currently creating a 10-year plan for the sector. This will include an analysis of how many hotel rooms RAK needs to avoid flooding the market.

To reach its objectives, RAK TDA engages in a range of activities, including conducting research on tourism trends and analysing the potential of prospective projects. RAK TDA also provides professional advice to tourism industry leaders in the emirate. For example, after collecting and analysing key indicators sent in from hotels on a monthly basis, RAK TDA provides specific suggestions to individual hotel managers on how to improve numbers and best utilise current circumstances in RAK. This service essentially works out to be free and localised consulting for hotel executives. Amr Ahmed, the hotel manager at Casa Hotels and Resorts, confirmed the positive work of RAK TDA. “RAK TDA has already contributed enormously to the sector by promoting the emirate as a tourism destination and by collaborating closely with industry leaders.”

PROMOTION: RAK TDA is promoting the emirate as a travel destination by attending exhibitions and conferences abroad. The organisation represented RAK at the Luxury Leisure exhibition in Moscow in September 2011 and at the World Travel Market conference in London in November 2011. The docket for 2012 includes the ITB Berlin travel show, held in March, the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, which took place in May, and the World Travel Market, which will be held again in London in November.

RAK TDA spent two weeks on a road show in key European markets during February and March 2012 to promote the advantages of holidaying in RAK. Further attention will be directed towards exploring the potential for additional charter flights. A number of operators offer direct charter flights to the emirate, resulting in easier access to RAK and ultimately bringing in greater numbers of visitors.

Victor Louis, RAK TDA’s chief operating officer, reported on the organisation’s progress in a September 2011 press release. “While there is much work still to do and goals to be accomplished, it is pleasing that a great amount of ground work has already been achieved within our first five months, forming a solid foundation from which to move forward.”

RAK HOSPITALITY GROUP: In November 2011 the government set up a second tourism body to oversee government-owned tourism assets. The RAK Hospitality Group was established as the management company responsible for a wide range of property, including hotels. The firm is also playing an important role in the upgrade of the Banyan Tree Al Wadi Hotel and the completion of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, as well as the Rixos Bab Al Bahr Resort, which are expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2013. The development and regulation of dining outlets is a further responsibility of the new organisation.

With the introduction of the RAK Hospitality Group, the government has added a second component to its expansion strategy for the tourism sector. The combination of a strong development authority in tandem with a management firm should provide a holistic, coordinated approach to the regulation, management and promotion of the emirate as a holiday destination.

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