Here’s What’s Luring Adventure Travelers to Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi’s Thriving Emirate - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Here’s What’s Luring Adventure Travelers to Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi’s Thriving Emirate

Tourism is booming in the United Arab Emirates, and not just in longtime hotspots like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. 

These days, the hottest emirate for adventure travelers is Ras Al Khaimah. According to Travel Daily Media, the thriving emirate ruled by Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi drew 83,605 visitors from Germany, the emirate’s top international source market, in 2018. At 63,054 visitors, the United Kingdom wasn’t far behind — it’s the third-largest international source market by visitor volume. 

What’s drawing visitors to Sheik Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi’s backyard? Haitham Mattar, former CEO of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, puts it best.

“With a unique combination of authentic Arabian hospitality, pristine beaches and outdoor adventure pursuits, Ras Al Khaimah has a great appeal to holidaymakers from all over Europe,” Mr. Mattar said in a release. 

“We have seen a significant growth in the number of visitors from Europe over the last couple of years, and therefore, our ongoing roadshow programme is a great vehicle to tell the story of the accessible Arabian hospitality and year-round sunshine we offer visitors from this region and beyond,” he added.

Plenty of Room for Growth

Ras Al Khaimah’s 2018 visitor figures were impressive by any stretch, but the hope is that they’re just a taste of what to come. According to Travel Daily Media, Sheik Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi has set an ambitious near-term target of 1.5 million visitors by 2021. By 2025, Sheik Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi envisions some 3 million visitors passing through RAK each year.

Is his vision attainable? Absolutely. As Mr. Mattar notes, RAK has a stunning array of natural and cultural amenities, making it unique among both its fellow emirates and other states within the Arabian peninsula.

As word of RAK’s pristine beauty and unmatched historical record get out, it’s worth taking a closer look at some of the top reasons for adventure-seeking tourists to visit. If you’re hoping to make your next international vacation a truly once-in-a-lifetime adventure, you can’t miss these “only in RAK” sights, sounds, and experiences.

Bear Grylls Survival Academy

Adventure travelers the world over are overjoyed by the news that famed survivalist personality Bear Grylls is set to open one of his eponymous survival academies in RAK next year. 

Set amid stunning Jebel Jais Mountain, the highest slope of the highest range in the UAE, Grylls’ academy will give adventurous visitors a chance to learn and test survival strategies in a punishing — if beautiful — environment. According to The National, the academy will feature half-day, 24-, and 48-hour packages that subject participants to a range of extreme conditions and problem-solving challenges.

If you’re up for a true adventure in RAK, mark your calendar for the first quarter of 2020, when the academy is set for opening.

The World’s Longest Zip Line

When you think of top ziplining destinations, jungly places like Costa Rica probably come to mind, not parched Jebel Jais Mountain.

Think again. RAK is home to the world’s longest zip line, officially certified by the Guinness Book of World Records. At more than 1.7 miles, it spans a vast void between two mountains while providing breathtaking mountain scenery. 

Be sure to take in the views on either side. Just don’t look down!

Virtually Endless Hiking Opportunities

As the UAE’s highest mountain range (its only mountain range, in point of fact), the Al-Hajar Mountains are the region’s top destination for serious adventure hikers. If you’re set on a strenuous hike amid jagged peaks — above 6,000 feet on the slopes of Jebel Jais — you’ll want to spend a day or two in this area. Temperatures are much cooler in the mountains than on the interior desert plain to the west, although summer hikes are still not recommended.

Cycling Galore (On-Piste and Off)

Where there’s hiking, there’s biking.

At least, that’s the case in RAK, which is in the midst of a concerted campaign to boost its appeal to cyclists of all abilities and preferences. Whether you’re looking for pulse-pounding mountain ascents and descents or gentler seashore rides, you’ll find something to love here.

Mountains As Far As the Eye Can See

It’s worth reiterating one more time the sheer variety of landscapes on offer in RAK. Unlike the flatter emirates to the south and west, RAK has a natural amenity that simply can’t be replicated: a stunning mountain range flanking a picturesque seashore. The world’s tallest manmade structures can’t hold a candle to the views from Jebel Jais. Isn’t it time you saw them for yourself?

Ready for Your RAK Adventure?

Now that you have a better sense of what’s drawing visitors to the hottest emirate for tourism, are you ready to plan your RAK adventure?

It’s not as difficult as you might imagine. 

According to Travel Weekly, a U.K.-based publication, renowned hotelier Raki Phillips took the reins of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority from Mr. Mattar earlier this year. 

Sheik Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi heaped praise upon Mr. Mattar at his departure, saying, “I would like to thank Haitham for his leadership of the authority and for presiding over a phase of tourism and hospitality development that has seen exceptional levels of growth.” He went on to say that Mr. Mattar laid the groundwork for “the next phase of development in our thriving tourism industry,” boosting annual RAK visitor totals to 1 million as of 2018. 

But Mr. Phillips brings a wealth of experience to his new role. Previously, he served in executive leadership positions with some of the world’s most coveted hospitality brands, including Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, and Universal Studios Orlando.

With a resume like that, Mr. Phillips knows what it takes to draw visitors of all stripes to an amenity-rich destination like RAK. Indeed, under his watch, it’s fair to bet that RAK’s tourism development momentum will stay strong — and perhaps accelerate — in the years to come.

Only one question remains: Will you find time in your busy schedule to visit before the rest of the world discovers RAK’s bounty? You should — Sheik Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi and his friendly subjects are waiting to welcome you with open arms.

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