Interview: Abdullah Rashed Al Abdooli
What policies and initiatives do the authorities and planners need to consider in terms of encouraging families to settle in Ras Al Khaimah?
ABDULLAH RASHED AL ABDOOLI: It is important to create an inclusive society that meets the needs of a diverse and growing population. Most developers work with local authorities to ensure that all projects encourage a sense of community. These projects should also aim to catalyse wider communal and economic growth. In order to build a stable housing market, quality academic institutions, health care services and transport networks are needed.
Of course working with local banks to facilitate housing loans will bring further value to the community. To serve a community ethos, the introduction of the RAK Real Estate Regulatory Administration in 2009 monitors the relationship between property owners and residents, adding an extra layer of protection for real estate investors in the emirate, while also protecting the interests of residents. Moreover, investors can be assured of added benefits such as no income tax, no personal tax, 100% foreign ownership, no foreign exchange controls, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, advanced infrastructure, streamlined utilities, and labour accommodation.
How can the emirate enhance its image as a destination in the region, and how do you see the niche and boutique segment developing?
AL ABDOOLI: The traditional Arab values of RAK go hand-in-hand with a cosmopolitan flair and an expanding economy. The emirate’s natural landscape is a key asset, as one can easily access the sea, the mountains and the desert. As the fourth largest of the seven emirates, RAK is a strategic geographic location at the base of the Arabian Gulf and is therefore a crossroad of international trade.
The emirate also holds major potential for smaller niche hotels. It is not difficult to attract a diverse range of hotels given the landscape of beaches, mountains and deserts. Boutique hotels have great scope too, with niche and diversified properties ready to add to the scene, such as health-focused boutique hotels, specialised medical offerings and others that value beaches and waterfronts.
To what extent is attracting the right calibre of employees a legitimate concern for operators and hotel chains in the emirate?
AL ABDOOLI: RAK is making strides in the luxury segment, with tourist numbers from core markets such as Russia, Germany, the UK and India on the rise. However, the largest and most reliable segment is the domestic market. Regardless of where tourists come from, it is clear that with demand increasing and competition among the other emirates becoming fiercer, service has become the defining specialisation.
Hotel operators have responded by enriching the sector with the most skilled and competent employees available, picked from a rigorous recruitment process that spans the globe. Many employees working in the tourism segment perceive the UAE as an ideal destination to climb the career ladder in hospitality. Finally, RAK’s lower prices afford employees the opportunity to settle here for 25-50% of the cost of other emirates.
How do you view the real estate market in RAK?
AL ABDOOLI: The RAK market is unique and stable when it comes to real estate, especially when we compare the local market to those of the other Northern Emirates. The rental return on investment is around 9% annually, and rental returns increased by 11% year-on-year in 2014. This is a healthy indicator that will support real estate market growth and maintain RAK’s attractiveness.
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