“Responsible growth and environmental stewardship can exist in harmony, by making smart changes from the ground up,” says Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) CEO Raki Phillips.
Phillips is attending World Travel Market 2023 (WTM) to discuss how the Emirate’s recent Silver Certification from EarthCheck, the world’s leading scientific benchmarking, certification, and advisory group for the tourism sector, is a testament to the destination’s commitment to becoming a regional leader in sustainable travel by 2025. Ras Al Khaimah recently announced record-breaking arrivals between January and June 2023, a total increase of 14.8% versus H1 2022 and the highest ever tourism-related revenue achieved for a half-year period.
Ras Al Khaimah has also recently unveiled substantial additions to its hospitality portfolio, setting the stage for a conscientious expansion.
At the forefront of this mission is Ras Al Khaimah’s Balanced Tourism strategy, spearheaded by Phillips, which places the environment, culture, conservation, and quality of life at the heart of the Emirate’s central investment and development plan.
The addition of renowned hotel brands such as Earth Hotels, Le Meridien, Nobu Hotels and W by Marriott will boost the destination’s hospitality offering and fuel ambitious growth plans of doubling Ras Al Khaimah’s guest room capacity in the coming years, marking one of the highest growth rates in the region. This involves Wynn Al Marjan Island, a multi-billion-dollar integrated hospitality project. The innovative resort will cover an area of almost 250,000 sqm and will feature more than 1,500 rooms, shopping, meeting and convention facilities, a spa, more than 20 restaurants and lounges, extensive entertainment choices, a gaming area, and other amenities (opening 2027). Scheduled to open later this year, Anantara Mina Al Arab Ras Al Khaimah Resort will be home to 174 rooms, including overwater villas with private plunge pools and exclusive access to private beach cabanas.
“It’s not just about expanding”, says Phillips, it’s about expanding responsibly. With a steadfast commitment to sustainable, balanced, and targeted development, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) has applied a considered approach to new hotel developments, consulting with hospitality partners to ensure thoughtful development and a measured pipeline to avoid rapid, less well-planned expansion and overcrowding. This has earned RAKTDA the accolade of being the first EarthCheck Silver certified tourism destination in the Middle East - underlining its dedication to responsible tourism. Ras Al Khaimah’s Silver certification also resonates deeply within the broader context of the UAE’s ‘Year of Sustainability’ initiative and COP28, to be staged in the UAE this November.
The Sustainable Tourism Strategy Implementation Plan, known as “Responsible RAK,” was collaboratively developed with EarthCheck. It assesses hotels and attractions based on ten performance metrics to measure their sustainability initiatives such as energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions, potable water consumption etc. Over 20 tourism businesses in the Responsible RAK program are poised to attain Silver Certification by the end of 2023.
Furthermore, in its role as the licensing authority for new hotel developments, RAKTDA sets out guidelines and protocols to oversee sustainability standards and collaborates closely with hotels to enforce these sustainable practices. The ‘Green Hotel Rating’ initiative represents a concerted effort to achieve complete sustainability integration within all of Ras Al Khaimah’s hotels.
Raki Phillips, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority said, “We’re thrilled with the success of our Balanced Tourism approach so far, along with the rapid growth of our hotel portfolio - and it’s just the beginning. Doubling our guest room capacity is a testament to Ras Al Khaimah’s allure as a global destination. However, as we expand, we remain dedicated in our commitment to sustainable tourism. We won’t rest on our laurels; we’ll continue innovating and setting new benchmarks in responsible travel, ensuring that the beauty of our Emirate endures for generations to come.”
In the pursuit of responsible tourism, Ras Al Khaimah is committed to preserving its natural treasures while catering to the growing community of conscientious travellers. This long-term investment plan will protect and develop the Emirate’s four archaeological sites which are on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List and other key cultural projects. This includes Suwaidi Pearls, the only pearl farm in the UAE which still cultivates local pearls, all done by hand to preserve the Emirate’s culture and traditions.
In parallel, the Emirate is embracing accessible tourism and moving towards more inclusive and travel. People with disability and special needs spend approximately £6.6 billion on tourism services annually, and the World Health Organisation estimates the number of people with disabilities will double to two billion by 2050. The Authority has engaged with accessibility experts, Sage Inclusion, to map out the consumer journey from the eyes of the traveller with a determined spirit in a move to ensure that Ras Al Khaimah is on par with the best destinations for accessibility standards to cater to this important travel audience.
Ras Al Khaimah is additionally strategically focused on bolstering its presence in the MICE market and providing corporate travellers with an authentic Arabian experience. Its diverse natural landscapes, encompassing the sea, desert, and vast mountains, in conjunction with an expanding portfolio of renowned global hospitality brands, positions Ras Al Khaimah as the premier choice for MICE events.
This focus is underscored by the Emirate’s impressive track record in hosting prestigious international and regional events, including the Arab Aviation Summit, the Global Citizen Forum and various sporting events such as the UAE Tour, the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon and the upcoming WMF Minifootball World Cup. With this steadfast commitment and a remarkable 26% increase in MICE room nights compared to the same period in 2022, Ras Al Khaimah is on track to significantly increase its prominence in the market. The destination is also strengthening its positioning as a leading wedding destination, with H1 2023 witnessing a 300% increase in weddings revenue YoY compared to 2022.
Taken together, the expansion of eco-conscious attractions is taking the Emirate a step closer to its goal of securing over three million annual visitors by 2030, whilst keeping balanced tourism at its core.
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