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Haitham Mattar Haitham Mattar

Q & A with Haitham Mattar, CEO Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority

WITH SPORTS TOURISM SEEN AS A MAJOR INCOME GENERATOR, RAS AL KHAIMAH IS ON A MISSION TO CAPTURE A FAIR SHARE OF THE PIE AS HAITHAM MATTAR, CEO, RAS AL KHAIMAH TOURISM DEVELOPMENT

AUTHORITY (TDA), EXPLAINS.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How important is sports tourism to Ras Al Khaimah’s overall tourism industry?

HAITHAM MATTAR: Ras Al Khaimah is cementing its position as a major player within a range of sporting pursuits for both professional players and leisure travellers.

Our commitment to sports tourism has resulted in the emirate successfully hosting a number of professional tournaments, including the inaugural Adventure HQ’s GCC Hiking Championship earlier this year and the upcoming Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge 2016, the penultimate competition in the European Challenge Tour.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What are the destination’s competitive advantages over other regional locations?

HAITHAM MATTAR: Ras Al Khaimah provides a beautiful backdrop for hosting a wide range of great outdoor activities.

The mountain area surrounding Jebel Jais, the highest peak in the UAE at 1,934m, offers ideal conditions for mountain sports, such as hiking, mountain climbing and orienteering, the pristine coastline entertains a range of water sports, and the sand dunes host desert safaris and equestrian activities.

As well as the natural attributes, the emirate boasts world-class golfing facilities at the likes of Al Hamra Golf Club, which will be the host course of the Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge 2016 [in October].

The globally anticipated tournament, one of the biggest sporting events in the UAE calendar, will host more than 100 professional and amateur golfers across three-days and will attract thousands of spectators staying at the range of luxury and mid-range hotels across the emirate.

The 18-hole Al Hamra Golf Club offers a broad range of facilities, including floodlights, so golfers can enjoy the course after the sun sets.

As an alternative, Tower Links provides an 18-hole course set against the backdrop of the Hajjar Mountains.

In terms of adventure sports, Jebel Jais provides challenging routes for hiking, climbing and other outdoor activities and sports.

In addition to the Adventure HQ’s GCC Hiking Championship, the Ras Al Khaimah’s mountain landscape has played host to the Urban-Ultra Hajar 50 & 100 for two consecutive years.

Holding such events in the emirate is in line with our vision of positioning Ras Al Khaimah as a natural choice for adventure sports amidst Ras Al Khaimah’s natural beauty – these events are not only for participants to enjoy but also great spectator sports.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What makes sports tourism a crucial part of the tourism board’s strategy?

HAITHAM MATTAR: One of our goals for the current year and beyond is to host a variety of exhilarating outdoor events, with a great deal of focus on sporting events in particular.

The potential of sporting events to attract visitors during the shoulder and low season has proven a success.

Our strategy to align a wide range of cultural, sporting and unique events with our overall destination strategy, not only ensures that we are engaging with the local community, but also allows us as a destination to showcase the range of landscape and facilities that the emirate offers.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: Could the Middle East become a top choice for sports teams and associations for camps and events?

HAITHAM MATTAR: The Arabian region has a rich culture and heritage surrounding sports, from the connection with horse racing and sailing, to falconry and shooting.

In fact, the UAE has been represented in the Olympics on eight occasions, with the first gold medal being awarded for shooting in Athens in 2004.

Additionally, the sponsorship of global sporting teams by the region’s international airlines has enhanced the image of the region within the sporting arena, further enhancing interest and development across the UAE and the wider GCC.

With the hosting of events such as the Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge 2016, and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the growth of sports tourism across the region is only set to increase

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