I spent the early part of this week at the Institute of Travel and Tourism (ITT) Conference in Ras Al Khaimah – a tiny part of the United Arab Emirates that, I confess, I had previously barely heard of.
I wasn’t alone. A straw poll at the event showed 38% of the travel professionals present had not come across the emirate before the ITT chose to hold its event there.
Yet Ras Al Khaimah is a fast-developing tourism destination to which the likes of Gold Medal and Virgin Holidays are already sending Brits on all-inclusive holidays. Prices of £120 a night for a five-star hotel, including free places for children, make it a great winter-sun alternative to the Canary Islands.
The level of investment in the emirate is staggering, with five hotels under construction on the artificially created Marjan Island, and 15 due to open within the next 10 years.
The good news for the industry in the UK is how close we have become to this part of the world. This is true in an ease of-access sense, with new airline services announced by Royal Brunei, Qatar Airways and Emirates.
It is also true in a business sense, thanks principally to dnata, which now has a significant footprint in the UK through its ownership of Travel 2, Gold Medal, Travelbag, Travel Republic and The Global Travel Group.
Combined with a tourist board keen to build strong trade partnerships, it puts the UK in prime position to take advantage of a new destination and product that are ripe for growth. Agents should grab the opportunities with both hands.
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