What is your view on the real estate market's outlook in Ras Al Khaimah for 2018?
The real estate market in Ras Al Khaimah has experienced continuous growth. Real estate development, especially within the residential and hospitality sectors, has gained traction led by the strong fundamentals of the economy and the government's focus on economic diversification with emphasis on trade, manufacturing, and tourism. We believe this growth will be sustained, especially with Ras Al Khaimah's GDP predicted to grow 4.3%, and the business and tourism sectors recording robust growth. The market is stable and demand outpaces supply.
What differentiates this market from the other Emirates?
With its focus on offering a new era of luxury, lifestyle, and hospitality services, Ras Al Khaimah also has one of the largest economic zones in the region with more than 13,000 companies that enable investors to have 100% ownership with zero income tax. The Emirate's population increased 3.6% in 2016 over the previous year, and it continues to welcome professionals from across the world. The population is expected to grow 11% in less than five years. Only four hours flying distance away from 31% of the world's population and eight hours from 76% of the global population, Ras Al Khaimah's airline connectivity is served by three international airports: Ras Al Khaimah International Airport, only 25 minutes from the city; the Sharjah International Airport, only 35 minutes away; and Dubai International Airport, only 45 minutes from the city. Ras Al Khaimah also has robust tourism potential with 43km of pristine coastline, golden sandy beaches, natural mangroves, the UAE's tallest mountain offering spectacular views, and a rich cultural heritage. These are strong fundamentals that differentiate the market. Offering a more relaxed environment, Ras Al Khaimah assures an authentic and genuine experience, especially for an active outdoor lifestyle. It is similar to the US, for example, where diverse environments can be found between Washington D.C. and California.
In terms of investment, is a bubble developing in Ras Al Khaimah?
No, the investment landscape of Ras Al Khaimah is promising and robust and led by strong fundamentals. Demand continues to outpace supply. In terms of residential investment, there are strict guidelines and regulations in place. Ras Al Khaimah's freehold areas offers innumerable benefits to international investors such as zero per cent income and personal tax, 100% foreign ownership, no foreign exchange controls, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, 100% ready infrastructure, 100% availability of utilities services, and residency visa for homeowners.
What should Ras Al Khaimah do to position itself as a different Emirate for tourism?
We have a clear vision and action plan for our tourism sector, and we do not compete with others. We see the UAE as one nation, and our goal is to build on our strengths. The government has set an ambitious vision to develop the Emirate, and we are on course to achieving the goals. In fact, we are witnessing sustained growth in tourist arrivals, and according to estimates, tourist arrivals are set to grow from almost 1 million this year to over 2.9 million annually by 2025. In the hospitality sector, an additional 15,000 hotel units are required in the next seven years to serve the growth in tourist arrivals, with the sector set to record a growth of 23% per annum. About 7,000 new hotel rooms are set to be added, mostly in the five-star beach resort category, by 2021, with nearly 71% to be delivered on Al Marjan Island. The Emirate's focus is on promoting Ras Al Khaimah as a luxury enriched product, long-haul destination, and with the incentives that are provided for investors, we see strong interest from global markets for inward investment in diverse sectors.