Traveling to the Middle East may be far more interesting and pleasant for the Westerner than you would think. Unlike many parts of the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates, or UAE, is a southeast Middle Eastern country bordered by Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, and Oman.
In the UAE, beautiful, sophisticated and cutting-edge cities and towns are becoming a destination of choice for many travelers. Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, as well as Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah are all must-visit locations for novice and experienced travelers alike.
The Dominance of Abu Dhabi and Dubai
In the past, Abu Dhabi and Dubai have been the most-visited cities in the UAE. In fact, in 2013, Dubai welcomed a record-breaking number: 10 million tourists. “For the first time in our city’s history we have crossed the 10-million threshold in visitor numbers,” said Helal Almarri, the director general of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing. “This growth is due to a number of factors including the city-wide destination management strategy, our world-class infrastructure, our location at the crossroads of East and West, and our unrelenting efforts to enhance our diverse and compelling tourism offer.”
Abu Dhabi and Dubai have used their experience to market both cities as tourist attractions, providing tourists with top desert activities and destinations as well as a luxury and views they cannot get at home.
The Perseverance of Ras Al Khaimah
While Dubai and Abu Dhabi are still main attractions for people all over the world, the UAE should credit Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) for its boost in tourism this past year.
Ras Al Khaimah is located in the northern part of the UAE, and is divided into two main sections: Nakheel and Old Ras Al Khaimah. Like other cities in the UAE, RAK offers natural beauty and a variety of attractions, landmarks, and activities for travelers from all over the world.
The appeal of Ras Al Khaimah can be credited to the emirate’s ruler, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi, who changed the landscape of RAK and turned it into the success it is today.
Since being appointed as chief of Ras Al Khaimah Royal Court in 1979, Sheikh Saud has used his education and business-savvy skills to drive Rak’s economic boom. Throughout the years, he has held many responsibilities that have allowed him to tailor reforms to boost business and tourism in the emirate. According to the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi bio page, “Shortly after becoming Deputy Ruler in 2005, he established Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA) to implement, develop and manage the infrastructure.”
RAKIA provides a way for businesses and entrepreneurs to enjoy low-cost business setup in a strategic location with a variety of business facilitation and resources. According to the RAKIA website, “Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA) offers attractive and competitive Free Zone and Non Free Zone facilities through its two industrial parks in Al Hamra and Al Ghail. Industrial and business investors can benefit from the smooth set-up of their operations in a dynamic and synergistic environment, allowing them to thrive in the region and beyond.”
With the success of RAKIA boosting the Ras Al Khaimah economy, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi decided it was time to boost tourism to the beautiful and bustling emirate. In 2011, he established the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (TDA) to “both develop and promote the emirate’s tourism infrastructure and potential both domestically and abroad.”
The Ras Al Khaimah TDA conducts research on current and future travel trends and uses this information to market the luxurious, yet affordable, environment of Ras Al Khaimah to travelers for both business and pleasure. RAK, home to warm climates and a rich heritage, boasts a variety of affordable luxury villas and suites as well as conference centers and other business leisure needs.
All this seems to be working: In the first half of 2014, Ras Al Khaimah earned around $118.7 million in tourism revenues from a total of 330,048 visitors. Hotel revenues earned the emirate around $14.9 million in the first half of the year as well.
Increased Growth Makes UAE a Top Destination
With the current tourism figures of Dubai coupled with the consistently growing tourism numbers of Ras Al Khaimah, the UAE is on par to be one of the most sought after travel destinations in the world.