Russians squeeze out Brexit-battered Brits on UAE’s northern beaches

Russians squeeze out Brexit-battered Brits on UAE’s northern beaches
Ras Al-Khaimah currently has 5,500 hotel rooms but more are on the way. (rak.ae)
Updated 11 November 2017

Russians squeeze out Brexit-battered Brits on UAE’s northern beaches

Russians squeeze out Brexit-battered Brits on UAE’s northern beaches

LONDON: The Russians are returning to Ras Al-Khaimah, the UAE’s most northern emirate, in considerable numbers, pushing the British down the tourist league table, according to Haitham Mattar, CEO of Ras Al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority.
The UK is down at third place with Russia second for the first time. The Germans are markedly ahead of both, however, with India fourth.
Speaking to Arab News following a panel discussion on how to exploit the tourist potential of “affluent millennials” at the World Travel Market fair in London, Mattar disclosed a 68 percent increase in Russian visitors in the first nine months of 2017, with the number exceeding levels seen prior to a slump in travel from Russia in the wake of sanctions and collapse of the oil price in 2014.
He said: “The rouble has been stable for quite some time, so there isn’t a problem with currency.”
Asked about expansion plans at Ras Al-Khaimah’s relatively small airport and other tourist infrastructure, he said the country was in the process of significantly upping its game.
“When you think about it, we have four airports in the UAE, with Dubai only 45 minutes away. Our airport is currently going through a three-year expansion plan to allow us to receive 3 million visitors, up from 1 million today.”
Hotel demand was exceeding supply and, consequently, an additional 4,500 rooms were under construction coming from brands such as Marriot, Millenium and InterContinental, he said.
Ras Al-Khaimah currently has 5,500 hotel rooms, but with demand growth of 11 percent in 2016 against supply growth of between 3 percent and 5 percent, a building program was inevitable, said Mattar.
By 2025, Ras Al-Khaimah hotel capacity is expected to reach 15,000 to 20,000 rooms to fulfil its vision of attracting 2.9 million visitors. The emirate’s Al-Marjan Island is expected to boast 20 hotels by 2025. As for new attractions, apart the building of the longest zip line in the world — part of a new adventure park — Mattar said a new luxury camp in the mountains for affluent millennials is under construction as is the development of a hiking and mountain biking route. A public park at a height of 1,300 meters “with beautiful views of the Arabian Sea,” is also in the pipeline.
In response to a question about the fallout from the standoff with Qatar, he said the latter was “a very small country in terms of population, so there hasn’t been a huge impact.”
He added: “Nor is Qatar one of the top 10 countries in the region as a whole. Our largest (market from the) GCC remains Saudi Arabia, followed by Kuwait and then Bahrain.”
The emirate features an array of archaeological sites and natural vistas, from terracotta dunes to a green belt of date palms and Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest peak. Mattar told the WTM panel discussion that as sponsors of the UNWTO International Year for Sustainable Tourism for Development, “sustainability is a key component of Ras Al-Khaimah’s overall tourism proposition.”
Ras Al-Khaimah is connected to 170 destinations worldwide. Airlines the emirate works closely with include Emirates, Flydubai, Air Arabia and Royal Brunei Airlines.
The total population of Ras Al-Khaimah is about 350,000.