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News A quiet emirate making a splash

You might not know much about Ras Al Khaimah yet, but you’re about to hear a whole lot more as this emirate has designs on stealing some of Dubai’s headlines and making its mark on the luxury scene

By Katherine Lawrey

The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority was only established in 2011, but its ambitions are clear – to develop and promote the tourism infrastructure and to establish Ras Al Khaimah as a luxury travel destination. And for those who find Dubai a little too lively, this quieter neighbouring emirate could be the antidote they’re looking for. While many will head to Ras Al Khaimah with the simple wish to relax in the year-round sunshine, those who are usually drawn by culture on holidays will also find plenty to do. The finest hotels have established a wealth of

desert, coastal and historical experiences to offer guests – so far, Waldorf Astoria and Banyan Tree are the main luxury brands with a foot in the sand, and more will undoubtedly follow. Alongside these brands, the new Al Marjan Island is set to seriously expand the luxury offering. “This is a 2.7 million square metre complex set to house around 30 of the world’s most luxurious accommodation options, restaurants and theme parks, so there are endless options for a luxury experience here,” said Sofia Panayiotaki, UK sales representative for Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority.

Beach openings Panayiotaki added that the emirate had set its sights on becoming a strong contender in the luxury market and said there were a number of further projects on the horizon, including the opening of a new Marriott five-star beach resort. The 300-room Ras Al Khaimah Marriott

Resort is to open in 2019 in the north of the emirate and will feature 45 suites and six

nights in 2014, a 72% increase on 2013, and talks with global airlines are said to be ongoing to get more carriers to use RAK International airport as an operational base. The airport will ultimately support more than 400,000 visitors flying in and out annually, while the emirate currently has 5,000 hotel rooms and will add 1,000 more by 2017.

Desert days For now, Banyan Tree is a key player, with two properties in Ras Al Khaimah: Banyan Tree Al Wadi, for luxury with a desert twist, and Banyan Tree Ras Al Khaimah Beach, which stretches along a private beach. At both resorts, spa is key, in keeping with the

“Ras Al Khaimah is one of the fastest growing tourism destinations in the world” Sofia Panayiotaki

F&B outlets, as well as direct access to a private beach with the Hajar Mountains as the backdrop.  “These developments will continue to solidify

Ras Al Khaimah’s reputation as one of the fastest growing tourism destinations in the world,” added Panayiotaki. The plans certainly seem to be bearing fruit, with the first quarter of 2015 showing an increase in visitors of 17%. Ras Al Khaimah achieved 2.14 million guest

Banyan Tree philosophy, while activities such as falconry shows, horse riding and nature walks to discover the Arabian wildlife such as gazelle and oryx are the main attractions at Banyan Tree Al Wadi, with a free shuttle connecting the two resorts in 20 minutes. Learning the ancient art of archery is also on offer, and the resorts are family-friendly with kids’ clubs available. Private dining under the stars, sunrise yoga and sunset cruises ramp up the romance factor. All the villas at both resorts are private pool


villas – Banyan Tree Al Wadi has 101 villas, 31 of which are designed with a Bedouin-inspired tented roof, while Banyan Tree Ras Al Khaimah Beach has 32 Bedouin-inspired villas.

Spreading the word The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority is working with a number of tour operators including Virgin Holidays, Kuoni and Gold Medal to raise awareness of the destination. Meanwhile, Royal Brunei Airlines, which flies daily into Dubai on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, is an official partner, with marketing campaigns and travel agent fams in the pipeline for the next 12 months. The emirate is also likely to climb higher on

the radar following the arrival of delegates for the ITT conference, which was held at the Waldorf Astoria at the beginning of June. An imposing building, the Waldorf Astoria

rivals Harrods the way it lights up the night sky. And its lobby is equally grand, with its signature Waldorf Astoria features, such as the embellished clock and the chandelier inspired by peacock feathers. The 346 rooms and suites range up to

170 square metres in size, and the dining options span from US to Middle Eastern fare. And there’s no need to place bets on whether delegates would have ended up in 17Squared, the champagne bar with a dance floor and striking views over Ras Al Khaimah.

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