Raki Philips - RAK
Raki Philips, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, is not done with topping up RAK attractions all through the last 12 months. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: All through the COVID-19 phase, Ras Al Khaimah was focussed on adding to its list of destinations and attractions, first to serve the staycationers and, when the time is right, for all those seeking a return from abroad.

The northern emirate intends to maintain the same pace of new destinations through the next two years, according to Raki Phillips, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority. Earlier this week, the government said it would invest Dh500 million to develop 20 tourism initiatives, in partnership with RAK Hospitality Holding and RAK Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

RAKTDA will pump some of that money into further developing Jebel Jais – UAE’s tallest peak – as a standalone tourist hub. “The second part of it is the cultural and heritage investments - we are really looking to enhance the four UNESCO sites that we have,” said Phillips. “The final one is a hotel development.”

This year, the emirate will see the opening of the Hampton by Hilton resort, and a Radisson Hotel on Al Marjan island. Other openings include the Movenpick resort and InterContinental Mina Al Arab.

“Our goal over the next five years and beyond is to attract over 3 million tourists a year - that is our long term goal for the destination,” said Phillips.

RAK Jebel Jais Bear Grylls Cabin
Carved onto mountains... Jebel Jais will have even more attractions over the next 18-24 months. Image Credit: Supplied

India impact

RAK’s tourism and aviation entities had been increasingly betting on travelers from India in recent years. But the ban on flights from the South Asian country is seen as a big setback.

“We have a great partnership with India’s SpiceJet - India's a huge source market to the whole of UAE and it's right in our backyard,” said Phillips. “There's going to be an impact (on tourism), but to be honest we've been so used to markets opening and closing this year.

“What we've been really good at over the last year is to pivot with change. As change happens we pivot and we target a new destination… we target a new opportunity,” said Phillips. “We're really working on maximizing any opportunities”

Upcoming projects

• Earth Hotels Altitude: An eco-based pop-up hotel concept set to feature 15 fully fitted accommodation units, an activation center and swimming pool.

• Saij: A Mantis Collection mountain lodge, comprising 35 luxury lodges.

• Cloud7 Camp Jebel Jais: This will provide tourists with a ‘glamping’ experience with 30 accommodation units built out of sustainable material.

• Basecamp Jais: This will offer affordable accommodation for outdoor enthusiasts, thrill-seekers and nature lovers. It will serve as a leisure hub at the base of the rugged Jebel Jais mountains.

• Jais Yard: An F&B Village with food trailers, kiosks, retail containers, vintage truck restaurants, open air cinema and children's play areas.

• Jais Wings: The region’s first paragliding site.