With Dubai, Abu Dhabi and even Sharjah often stealing the spotlight when it comes to tourism in the UAE, it may be easy for travellers to overlook destinations such as Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah.
However, hospitality and tourism experts from both the emirates are adamant that the destinations have plenty of unique offerings for visitors from all walks of life. The popularity of both destinations has also been on the rise in recent years thanks in part to the efforts of the governments to promote the emirates both regionally and globally.
Gerald Lawless, chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council, and head of tourism and hospitality at Dubai Holding, described the increasing interest in both destinations as a "natural progression of events".
"A city, as a destination, begins to develop into a high profile tourism product and, as an inevitable result, the surrounding cities soon begin to take advantage of that fact, and begin to promote their offerings. This has been the case with Dubai and the rest of the emirates," he said.
"There has been a lot of encouragement from the government to promote travel, tourism and hospitality within the UAE. For a long time, Sharjah has been a favoured destination, especially among the Islamic tourism communities, and now Ras Al Khaimah is being particularly active in taking advantage of the number of travellers coming to Dubai. This is also the case for Fujairah, which has a beautiful coastline."
Haitham Mattar, CEO of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, noted that Ras Al Khaimah had the potential to evolve its tourism offering further.
"We're well known for our 64km of pristine beaches, but there are many other natural assets to offer such as the highest mountains in the UAE, unique terracotta desert landscapes and the ability to encounter unspoilt flora and fauna. We have plans to restore historic sites - some of which date back 7,000 years and offer cultural explorers a fascinating travel experience. Other areas we are working on developing are the wellness sector, luxury indulgence and outdoor adventures and activities. All these offerings play to our destination's key strengths and assets."
Listing some of the exciting projects in the pipeline positioned around Jebel Jais, Mattar spoke about plans for a via ferrata, zipline, 5-star mountain camp and viewing deck. Other major projects in the development process include Al Marjan Island, which aims to have a further 20 hotel properties by 2025.
Visitor numbers to Ras Al Khaimah in March 2016 were up seven per cent on March 2015. Furthermore, the emirate's hotels reported an occupancy rate of 80.3 per cent, up by 13.3 per cent on March 2015. RevPAR for March 2016 also increased by 14.1 per cent compared to the same period last year. Currently, approximately 40 per cent of the emirate's visitors come from the UAE.
"We expect tourism from the GCC countries to increase to Ras Al Khaimah, both among leisure and business visitors. International travel is also on the rise following the number of strategic partnerships secured. Currently, Germany is our largest international source market, followed by the UK, India and Russia. But we also expect further growth from emerging markets," said Mattar.
Fujairah for the family
Often dubbed the 'Arabian Jewel', the emirate of Fujairah is the eastern gateway to the UAE, and welcomes beach lovers. Nestled on the longest beach strip on the east coast, the Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort is a favourite destination for many vacationers.
"A staycation at Fujairah means complete rest and relaxation," said Patrick Antaki, complex general manager at Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort Fujairah.
"On the cultural side, Fujairah has the most antiquities to offer; it has a lot of ancient forts, mosques and old houses. You can also go diving, indulge in water sports, kids clubs, spas, and explore food venues," Antaki said.
Asked about the resort's strategy for attracting visitors, he said: "Our local strategy at the moment is divided into two parts: our summer campaign and our social media campaign for May. We know that customers are very careful in how they spend their money, so we have not increased our rates for the summer."
By Rohma Sadaqat
Copyright © 2022 Khaleej Times. All Rights Reserved.