The Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, once known as the quieter neighbour to its glitzy counterpart, Dubai, has embarked on a remarkable journey to emerge as a thriving hub for entertainment and tourism. Long-term residents might remember it as a go-to weekend getaway or a place for a quick staycation, but in recent years, this northern gem has undergone a transformation that’s caught the attention of both international visitors and new residents. In a region renowned for its tourism hotspots, RAK is now making a name for itself.
In the first half of 2023, RAK celebrated a historic milestone, welcoming an impressive 600,000 visitors. This achievement represents the highest half-year visitor numbers in the history of the Emirate, as reported by the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA). Considering the broader picture, this impressive growth should not come as a surprise.
A study conducted by Colliers highlights the exponential growth potential, projecting over 3.8 million visitors to the Emirate by 2027. This impressive forecast suggests an annual growth rate of 28% from 2022.
Infrastructure Development and Enhanced Connectivity
In response to this surge in visitors, RAK is making strategic moves to accommodate the increasing demand. One crucial aspect of this strategy involves enhancing the Emirate’s international airport capacity. Authorities are focusing on modernising the existing terminal and introducing a bus service to connect RAK with other cities, ensuring affordable and convenient transportation options for all.
A flourishing hospitality portfolio
RAK’s growth has undoubtedly been stimulated by improved infrastructure, but it’s expanding portfolio of hospitality offerings is what is really making the headlines. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has poured into the region, most notably the USD$3.9 billion Wynn Al Marjan integrated resort. This landmark investment will be a crucial contributor to transforming the Emirate into a global tourism hotspot.
Moreover, RAK is set to welcome several other exciting additions to its hospitality sector. These include Nobu Al Marjan Island in 2026, Westin Resort in 2024, Le Méridien Al Marjan Island Resort, Earth Shore Al Marjan Island in 2025, Anantara Mina Al Arab, and Sofitel Al Hamra. The influx of high-end accommodation is expected to double the number of rooms, further elevating RAK’s appeal as a top-tier tourist destination.
MICE tourism and unique experiences
RAK is also diversifying its tourism offer to cater to various interests. It’s no longer just about sunbathing and luxury; it’s about adventure, culture, and unique experiences. The Emirate is making a name for itself in the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) tourism sector. Between January and June 2023, RAK hosted a range of events, including the RAK Half Marathon, Arab Aviation Summit, DP World Tour, and Exotic Wedding Planning Conference (EWPC).
Intriguingly, the first half of 2023 saw a remarkable 300% increase in revenue from weddings alone. This trend is expected to continue into the second half of the year, solidifying RAK’s reputation as a distinctive and unconventional wedding destination.
Furthermore, RAK has carved a niche for itself as an adventure destination. It is home to the world’s longest zipline and the UAE’s highest peak, Jebel Jais. But it doesn’t stop there; it also offers the first internationally certified multi-day hiking experience in the GCC. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker, a nature enthusiast, or someone looking for a unique experience, RAK offers a wealth of options to suit every preference.
The Emirate’s appeal also extends to cruise liners, having experienced a significant increase in cruise traffic, with luxury liners bringing tourists to its shores. In the first half of the year, RAK welcomed six calls from four luxury cruise liners, including the Azamara Quest, one the largest ships ever to visit RAK.
A major milestone for the Emirate was the simultaneous arrival of both the Emerald Azzurra and the super mega-yacht, The World (Residences at Sea), on the same day. These developments underscore the growing importance of the cruise tourism sector in Ras Al Khaimah, with 14 luxury cruise calls confirmed for the upcoming season.
A bright future ahead
With its bustling activity, growing hospitality and residential sector, and diverse experiences, RAK is poised to evolve into a leading entertainment hub in the region. The Emirate is no longer a hidden gem within the UAE; it is rapidly becoming a dynamic, diverse and exciting destination.
Whether you’re an adventure enthusiast, a business traveller, a culture buff, or simply seeking a serene beach to unwind, RAK deserves a top spot on your travel list. This once laid-back Emirate is on the verge of a significant transformation, promising to become a world-class destination, and I believe we are about to witness the rise of a new star in the world of tourism and entertainment.