Luxury travel in the United Arab Emirates is not exactly new. For many decades, Abu Dhabi stood as one of the most luxurious destinations in the Arabian Peninsula, more so than Oman and Bahrain, but things changed when Dubai started making strong incursions into the hospitality sector. Any city that wishes to become a cosmopolitan wonder and an international center of business deserves to have an upscale hotel and resort center, and Dubai has certainly accomplished this goal. There is another spot in the UAE where luxury tourism has been quietly flourishing in recent years, and it happens to be about an hour’s drive northwest of Dubai.
Ras Al Khaimah is a sovereign jurisdiction within the UAE that is turning into a jewel of tourism in the Middle East. By virtue of being located next to Dubai, RAK has attracted visitors who are curious to learn about this northernmost Emirate, and many of them come away surprised with the level of relaxed luxury that can be found here. RAK tends to fly under the radar of the luxury tourism beat, and this suits the plans of Sheikh Saud leader of RAK and his vision.
If RAK becomes a luxury destination similar to the Seychelles and Bali, this would suit Sheikh Saud just fine. Although RAK is also emerging as a prime destination for other segments such as adventure, family, and cultural tourism, its upscale resort segment is developing in a more exclusive manner; to make a reasonable comparison, it is more Palm Beach than South Beach. Dubai gets more visitors these days, but those who venture west to RAK are finding more comfortable options in terms of spa, leisure, golf, and indulgence.
RAK has more than 60 kilometers of coastline to explore, and a cluster of luxury resorts have already staked their claim within a sector that is close the stylish downtown skyline that is currently under development. This part of the Emirate is like a small wadi surrounded by vegetation and facing the Persian Gulf; it enjoys privacy and convenient transportation links to the international airport. While the RAK luxury resort offering is smaller than Dubai, some executive boards that do business over there choose to stay here over the weekend as part of their corporate retreat packages, and this decision has a lot to do with the more appealing relaxation factor of RAK.
Under the leadership of Sheikh Saud, RAK has been regaining its historic status as a prosperous and welcoming place. During the Julfar period, which lasted from the establishment of the Islamic Empire to medieval times, this part of the world was home to a very busy maritime trading port, and it was also a crossroads for Bedouin merchants who traveled across the Arabian Peninsula looking for goods to sell. The geography and climate were crucial in this regard; RAK is blessed with a weather that is milder than Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and it also enjoys oceanic breezes that pick up speed through the mountainous region. The soil is fertile because RAK gets precipitation that filters to abundant aquifers; this translates into quite a few oasis spots, and this is what Julfar was known for.
The management of oasis camps for desert travelers instilled a culture of hospitality that lives to this very day in RAK. Locals tend to be very welcoming, and there is an entire new generation excited to grow up in a place where foreign visitors come for culture, adventure, cuisine, and relaxation.
Major resort brands such as Hilton, Rixos, The Ritz-Carlton, and even the Waldorf Astoria have found RAK to be ideal for their business goals. First of all, Sheikh Saud has rolled out the red carpet directly to the oasis for these brands in terms of business incentives; second, many of the construction materials are already made here or can be easily sourced and shipped to the nearby port of Saqr. The financial subsidies and enticements have also made it possible for hoteliers and travel operators to charge more comfortable prices, and this has resulted in a greater influx of visitors.
All in all, the future looks bright for the luxury tourism sector in Ras al Khaimah. Whether you are an investor, a professional who works in this industry, or a visitor who wants to get a nice dose of Arabian hospitality, you deserve to learn more about what RAK has to offer.