There is plenty to see in RAK and Fujairah
Al Hamra Village Golf & Beach Resort prides itself as one of the most picturesque resorts of Ras Al Khaimah, and is a must see for travellers to the emirate
Dubai - Hospitality vendors in the two emirates are cashing in on the increase in visitors to Dubai, and government push towards promoting tourism
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 & Tourism Council, and head of tourism & 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 certainly 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 favored destination, especially amongst the Islamic tourism communities, and now Ras Al Khaimah is being particularly active in taking advantage of the number of travellers that are coming to Dubai. This is also the case for Fujairah, which has a beautiful coastline."
As a tourism advocate, Lawless said that he was heartened to see the direction in which tourism in the UAE is going. He also cautioned that it is important to continuously promote a destination - both when the tourism industry is picking up and when it is down - since it is necessary to retain the awareness of the destination.
Haitham Mattar, CEO of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, noted that Ras Al Khaimah had the potential to evolve its tourism offering even further.
"Much of our research and plans are focused on growing existing and new initiatives to enhance the visitor experience," he said. "We're already 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 truly fascinating travel experience. Other areas we are working on developing are the wellness sector, luxury indulgence, and outdoor adventures and activities. All of 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. One of the biggest advantages of Ras Al Khaimah as a destination is the accessibility of the emirate - being only 45 minutes drive from Dubai International airport, and complementing the offering of the other cities in the UAE.
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 tourism. 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 has something for the whole familyOften dubbed the 'Arabian Jewel', the emirate of Fujairah is the eastern gateway to the UAE, and welcomes beach lovers from all over the world. Nestled on the longest beach strip on the east coast, the Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort is a favourite destination for many vacation-goers. Only a 90 minute drive from Dubai International Airport, the resort has the azure waters of the Indian Ocean on one side and the might Hajar mountains on the other. Being the only resort with 'all sea-facing rooms', the largest swimming pool in the emirate, and dedicated facilities for children as well as teens makes Le Meridien Al Aqah one of the most loved beach resorts in the country.
"Once you arrive at the Al Aqah resort, you have the mountains on one side, and the ocean on the other; it's like you have gone to a different country altogether. You can hear the birds in the trees, you can see them flying in front of you; and when you are sleeping at night, you can leave your window open and hear the sea lapping on the sand. A staycation at Fujairah means complete rest and relaxation," said Patrick Antaki, complex general manager at Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort Fujairah.
Fujairah has a lot of beautiful natural places to visit, and you can also count on the fact that there is something for everyone in the family to do. "On the cultural side, Fujairah has the most antiquities to offer; it has a lot of ancient forts, mosques, and old houses, so people with an interest in exploring a region's history can spend a lot of time there. You can also go diving, indulge in watersports, kids clubs, spas, and explore foodie venues. You come here, enjoy all the experiences that the destination has to offer, and leave with some wonderful memories," 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 the month of May. We know that customers nowadays are very careful in how they spend their money, so we have not increased our rates for the summer. Also, our social media campaign involves us asking our customers to share on facebook and Instagram their best Al Aqah experiences in the #AlAqahMoments campaign, where the winner wins a weekend stay at our presidential suite. We have a very simple philosophy - we say that every guest leaves happy."
Haitham Mattar, CEO of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, noted that Ras Al Khaimah has the potential to evolve its tourism offering even further
A staycation at Fujairah means complete rest and relaxation, says Patrick Antaki, complex general manager at Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort Fujairah
A view of the pool at the Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort Fujairah at sunset
Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort Fujairah