Coming soon to UAE’s RAK: Integrated gaming resort, new hotels, more Jebel Jais adventures

Top official details how unified GCC visa will help tourists explore Ras Al Khaimah

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Sahim Salim

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Published: Tue 9 Jan 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 9 Jan 2024, 3:29 PM

Nature emirate Ras Al Khaimah has plans to double its hotel inventory over the next few years, a top official has said. Currently, the emirate has 8,000 rooms and suites from global brands such as IHG, Movenpick, Hilton, Accor, Radisson, Rixos, Rotana and Ritz-Carlton, among others.

Hotel operators such as Wynn, Nobu, Marriott, Sofitel, and Anantara will boost rooms by nearly 100 per cent to welcome “everyone from leisure travellers and families to couples and adventure seekers”.

“We have a strong pipeline of over 20 new hotels coming in the next few years,” Raki Phillips, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.

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He also referred to the 250,000-sqm Wynn Resorts development of Al Marjan Island that’s a multi-billion-dollar integrated resort —the first of its kind in the UAE. The highlight of the property, which is expected to open in 2027, is its gaming area. However, its “rich non-gaming amenities” can be enjoyed completely independent of the gaming area, a top official had said earlier.

More adventures on Jebel Jais

Arguably, the most famous place in Ras Al Khaimah is the UAE’s highest mountain — the Jebel Jais — and authorities plan to expand this “nature-driven offering”.

“From ziplining and challenging hiking expeditions to immersive overnight activities and mountain top dining, we will be unveiling new experiences that blend adventure with eco consciousness. We will be launching ‘Jais Wings’ – the region's first dedicated paragliding site, in addition to new rock-climbing experiences and mountaineering routes,” said Phillips.

The Jais Adventure Park already has attractions such as the world’s longest zipline; a series of six ziplines stretching 5km; and the region’s longest toboggan ride.

The mountain is also home to the highest restaurant in the UAE – 1484 by Puro.

A new sustainable accommodation offering called Saij will comprise of 70 luxury lodges that will provide a “pure mountain retreat with guided treks, mindful pursuits and creative experiences”.

Unified GCC visa

A new unified GCC tourist visa — which has unanimously been approved by all Gulf countries — will help realise the emirate’s “ultimate aim”: To welcome 3 million visitors annually by 2030.

“The visa will help travellers explore all six of the Gulf-member states with ease and will no doubt boost tourism across the region. Many of our visitors tend to come to the UAE and explore multiple cities during their trip, such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but now with the introduction of the unified visa, tourists can explore the whole region and make Ras Al Khaimah a must-see stop on their travel itinerary,” the RAKTDA CEO said.

Raki Phillips. — Supplied photo
Raki Phillips. — Supplied photo

The authority recently signed an agreement with Oman Tourism Development Company (OMRAN) to collectively initiate and pursue cross-destination tourism promotion and marketing between the Musandam governorate, Oman and Ras Al Khaimah. “With just a 90-minute drive between them and a shared mountain range, we will be working closely with OMRAN to create opportunities for travellers to visit both destinations, Ras Al Khaimah and Musandam, in a single trip.”

Expansion plans

The emirate sees a 50/50 split between the number of international visitors and those from within the UAE and the wider region.

“As of October 2023, international visitors have contributed to 51 per cent of all arrivals to the destination and we expect this to continue to grow as we make the emirate more accessible than ever before with new airlines partnerships. Ras Al Khaimah International Airport is also undergoing extensive renovation and will be ready to welcome more international travellers than ever before as we expand our global access and provide seamless connectivity.

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“The first Qatar Airways flight landed in Ras Al Khaimah (recently), opening one of the largest global networks to the emirate and leveraging a portfolio of over 150 destinations, and our partnership with Indigo will see regular flights from two cities in India. We are also better equipped than ever to receive cruise passengers to the emirate; just this year alone we have welcomed six calls by four luxury cruise liners, resulting in visits from over 2,500 passengers and crew.”

For UAE-based residents and visitors, Ras Al Khaimah is a popular staycation destination. “Our outdoor and adventure offerings aren’t present in other emirates, making Ras Al Khaimah a hot spot for those looking for thrill and adventure.”

Civil marriage

After the introduction of the new laws regulating civil marriage in the UAE earlier this year, the RAKTDA has set up a new certification programme for wedding planners.

“For the first time, Ras Al Khaimah will be offering couples from around the world the opportunity to wed via a civil marriage ceremony. One of the most diverse and beautiful destinations in the region, the nature Emirate is the new setting for romance that is sure to have couples and newly-weds in high spirits and toasting to a happy future together,” Phillips added.


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