Ras Al Khaimah is to be repositioned as a destination for nature-lovers and adventure seekers to extend its reach beyond the beach market.
The emerging Middle East destination has been attracting international tourists for the last five years but to date has been marketed primarily for sun and beach holidays, often twinned with neighbouring Dubai, which is a 45-minute drive away.
The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority now hopes to extend its reach dramatically, with a rebrand and repositioning campaign launching at the start of 2016, backed up by marketing promotions during the turn-of-year sales period to increase awareness of the destination in the UK.
In 2014, the destination attracted 700,000 visitors. It has a target of one million annual visitors by 2018. The UK currently represents just shy of 6% of international visitors and this year to date 27,000 UK tourists have visited Ras al Khaimah, an increase of 33% on last year.
Haitham Mattar, chief executive of the tourism development authority, said: “The repositioning will help us further to create awareness and position ourselves as a destination targeting travellers seeking adventure and nature and an understanding of our culture and heritage. The whole story of Arabia started in Ras al Khaimah.
“We want to move away from being perceived only as a beach destination to a more holistic experience that offers different components. The headroom for growth from the UK market is phenomenal and we also see the opportunity to grab some of the tourists who come to Dubai and grow that further.”
He hopes that by raising awareness of what the destination has to offer – which includes mountains for camping, hiking, biking holidays and trips to visit ancient tribal villages – will attract more young tourists seeking activity-based breaks.
The authority is also keen to work with niche tour operators to feature the destination and to encourage larger operators to promote a broader mix of what if offers, rather than simply focusing on its hotels and beaches.
However, it is still developing one of its main tourist beach hubs, the island of Al Marjan. Currently three international chain hotels have built properties there and 17 more hotels are planned by 2025. Most hotels are based in Al Hamra, within easy reach of the mountains, desert and sea, added Mattar.
During World Travel Market the authority has held talks with operators and trade organisations including the Association of Independent Tour Operators as part of its awareness drive.
In June the Institute of Travel and Tourism hosted its annual conference in the destination, which Mattar said had helped give Ras Al Khaimah “greater exposure” in the UK trade.
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