General Manager, Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah
General Manager, Ritz-Carlton Al Wadi Desert and Ritz-Carlton Al Hamra Beach
ALAN STOCKER There is no difference in terms of how we define luxury in Ras Al Khaimah compared to any other Emirate. We look at the broader field worldwide, not just in the UAE. When we position luxury, we look at it from a world-class perspective. Ras Al Khaimah is benchmarked against global luxury standards. Initially, when showcasing an up-and-coming location, quite often it is done on a price point basis. However, in our case, we look at the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah more on a par with Abu Dhabi or Dubai. When we look at it competitively, we certainly have our eyes on the broader UAE market. Things are changing, and awareness of Ras Al Khaimah has grown over time. Located only a one-hour drive away from Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah complements perfectly its metropolitan neighbors, offering some of the most scenic landscapes in the UAE.
AMIT ARORA Although many people in Ras Al Khaimah go to Dubai for shopping and leisure activities, they also enjoy leisure in Ras Al Khaimah; there is a great number of Emiratis and local guests who stay here for special occasions or eat in our restaurants. We have two hotels, one in the heart of the city in Al Hamra and another in part of the Al Wadi Nature Reserve, and both complement each other well. We cater for the local market on a daily basis, however our largest segment of visitors is not from the local market, but from overseas. Our normal guest is a global affluent traveler who frequents the best luxury hotels around the world. We also appeal to UAE residents looking for staycations; UAE residents do not mind driving out to experience the tranquility.
AS The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) is strengthening Ras Al Khaimah’s position on the map, and we are doing the same through the Hilton network. Ras Al Khaimah is also home to Jebel Jais, the tallest mountain range in the UAE, and the government has taken a great initiative to open the world’s longest zipline here. Moreover, we have had several large MICE events come in already, and we see more potential in this segment. With RAKTDA and our owners, we are looking at building a convention center that might be an all-purpose development covering everything from entertainment to conferences and events. This would lift our profile further and allow us to compete at another level. We are currently discussing how this might evolve. As the Emirate develops, this is a natural progression. Having MICE provides support to the sector given that there are peaks and troughs in tourism patterns. For example, weekends tend to be the peak for leisure guests at the hotel, and MICE tourism would help support our mid-week business. MICE business would be a significant development for the Emirate moving forward. Ras Al Khaimah is relatively quiet, which makes it easier to organize delegates without other distractions; people do tend to stay together as a group.
AA RAKTDA’s activities truly place strategy and resources behind the Ras Al Khaimah marketing engine to put it the forefront of a competitive scene. It is not just about building hotel rooms; it is about giving Ras Al Khaimah enough bandwidth to welcome guests and give them enough offerings to come and enjoy. There is a lot to be explored in Ras Al Khaimah: Wadi Shawka, Jebel Jais, the new zipline, the observation deck, some unique thermal springs, and more. Ras Al Khaimah does not aspire to be Dubai; the Emirate does not aim to host 16 million tourists a year. We target 1 million tourists who are seeking a different experience. Another key strategy for RAKTDA is the emphasis on sustainability and eco-tourism. We are truly at the forefront of this pillar as we are set in a protected nature reserve. For example, we have upcycled our entire fleet of 250 bicycles in an effort to reduce carbon emissions. Our guests have the opportunity to plant an indigenous Ghaf tree in the resort’s Heritage Forest as part of their stay; or enjoy the local produce at Farmhouse, our new signature restaurant inspired by the farm-to-fork concept.
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