The tourism sector of Ras Al Khaimah continues to experience YoY growth as the relatively undiscovered destination attracts a diverse number of local and foreign adventurers and cultural explorers to its unique leisure offerings.
In 2017, the overall number of tourists to the Emirate grew by 19%, with a 79% increase in tourists from Russia and a 16.8% increase in those traveling from the UK. This follows on from similar double-digit growth experienced in the preceding year. Hotel occupancies are up by 3.5% with an average occupancy rate of 73.6%, nearly filling the almost 6,000 rooms in the Emirate during peak season. Tourists are also spending more time in the Emirate with the average stay at 3.41 days—an increase of 2.7% from 2016.
The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) is on track to reach its goal of attracting 1 million annual visitors to the Emirate by the end of 2018. The authority, which is tasked with developing the Emirate's tourism and hospitality sector, hopes to draw in these visitors by complementing the city offerings of its more well-known neighbors of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Boasting the highest mountain peak in the UAE, 64km of coastline, and internationally renowned resorts and hotels, RAKTDA has its sights set on nature and adventure tourism to set it apart from the bustling cities.
Jebel Jais Mountain is now home to the world's longest zipline, which is expected to attract bucket list travelers and adrenaline junkies from around the world. The record-breaking zip line is 2.83km long and suspended at 1,680m above sea level. Participants fly face down the line at exhilarating speeds of up to 150km per hour, covering a distance exceeding the length of 28 football fields.
The zip line, which was opened by RAKTDA in early 2018, was designed in partnership with the world's leading zipline operator, Toro Verde. It consists of two lines that allow participants to ride side by side.
Near the zip line is the Jebel Jais Via Ferrata. While safely attached to a cable alongside the mountain, outdoor enthusiasts hike, climb, and travel down ziplines at dizzying heights from perilous ledges. Via Ferrata offers tourists the challenge and thrill of rock climbing without the risk as enthusiasts are professionally guided along one of three routes up the mountain supported by a cable system and metal ladder rungs fixed into the rocks.
During the four-hour ledge walk, beginners are guided through sedimentary rock along a 470-m gradual slope, which incorporates a vertical climb up to the first zipline. The 50-m zipline leads to a ledge along the cliff face of the mountain up to another 60-m zipline. Another short walk gives enthusiasts enough time to admire the view of the mountains while perched 120m in the air, all before descending down the final 300-m zipline that leads to the walk back to the base camp.
In addition to the thrilling experiences in Jebel Jais, Ras Al Khaimah offers desert motorbiking experiences and a popular 10-mile mountain biking trail—a technical course over a dried riverbed with narrow limestone channels through Wadi Shawka. Additionally, the Hidden Stairs of Ras Al Khaimah is one of the most challenging hiking routes in the UAE, allowing for views across the Omani border once summiting the precarious boulders and sun-bleached cliffs. Further hiking and cycling routes are being laid out.
For the less adventurous, live classical music performances and light shows provide a breath-taking experience in nature, and there are picnic areas and walking paths at the Jebel Jais Viewing Deck Park with the backdrop of regional flora and fauna. For RAKTDA, investment in adventure tourism and the unique natural assets in the Emirate will draw tourists for a longer stay and will help set Ras Al Khaimah apart as the future leisure destination of choice in the region.