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Haitham Mattar Haitham Mattar

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

BY 2018, RAS AL KHAIMAH IS EXPECTED TO ATTRACT ONE MILLION VISITORS AND ACCORDING

TO HAITHAM MATTAR, CEO, RAS AL KHAIMAH TOURISM DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY (TDA), THE NEXT MONTHS WILL SEE THE COMPLETE REBRANDING OF THE DESTINATION.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How has the emirate’s tourism industry performed in the past months?

HAITHAM MATTAR: Our latest statistics show that visitor numbers to Ras Al Khaimah witnessed an eight percent increase in the first half of the year, compared to the same period in 2014, with domestic travellers constituting a major proportion of the demand, followed by Germany, Russia and the UK.

The top five source markets for Ras Al Khaimah include the UAE, Germany, Russia, India and the UK. We have also spotted an increase from the wider GCC region and China, which represent a growth of 125 percent.

During Eid Al Adha [in October], we recorded 12,709 visitors over the three-day period, which was extremely promising.

We have ambitious targets to grow the emirate’s tourism industry and welcome one million visitors by the end of 2018, and these positive numbers show we are on the right track to achieve our goal.

Our strategy continues to be focussed on our existing source markets, whilst nurturing the emerging markets which provide significant growth potential.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: Over the years, Ras Al Khaimah TDA has launched a range of initiatives and programmes to attract both visitors and investors. What are the authority’s priorities for the upcoming months?

HAITHAM MATTAR: Ras Al Khaimah TDA is committed to enhancing the quality of life for its residents and the overall experience of its visitors.

Since my arrival, we have initiated several research projects with leading global firms such as TNS [marketing company] to identify our current source markets and global travel and tourism trends in an effort to diversify our product offering.

It is our priority to enhance the destination and demonstrate its diverse natural assets to a global audience, positioning Ras Al Khaimah as a world-class destination of choice for authentic Arabian culture and experiences.

As mentioned, Ras Al Khaimah TDA aims to attract one million visitors by the end of 2018. To achieve this, we will continue to develop existing assets, such as Al Marjan Island and significantly increase hotel capacity.

We also aim to add a further 3,600 rooms by 2019. With white sandy beaches, terracotta dunes, rich cultural and historical sites, wildlife and Jebal Al Jais, the highest mountain in the UAE, the destination offers a distinct sense of tranquility and escapism from the fast-paced metropolitan of the other emirates.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What other steps and initiatives are needed in order to achieve the authority’s goals significantWhich new markets will TDA be targeting?

HAITHAM MATTAR: Ras Al Khaimah TDA is currently working with TNS and other globally renowned statistics consultants on various research elements for a destination strategy which will look at repositioning and rebranding Ras Al Khaimah as a destination on the world tourism map.

We are working towards an exciting new value proposition that highlights the key drivers in terms of tourism and a destination strategy that focusses on bold new segments such as MICE, events, cruise, adventure and leisure.

In terms of source markets, we are continuing to focus on existing top source markets as well as new feeder markets.

We are fortunate to attract visitors from a wide range of markets and this is something to keep in mind when broadening our tourism offering.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What are your most important plans for the coming years?

HAITHAM MATTAR: Ras Al Khaimah is quickly becoming a destination of choice for both business and leisure visitors.

We are planning to use every opportunity to demonstrate that our emirate is rich in culture, heritage and traditions. This is the core of our value proposition and something that runs throughout our strategy from advising on the style of new properties being developed in the emirate to how we activate historical sites.

We are currently working on a full-scale rebranding which aims to reposition the emirate in an effort to drive dynamic and sustainable investment opportunities as well as economic growth.