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Haitham Mattar Haitham Mattar

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

HAVING RECORDED THE HIGHEST REVENUE FOR THE PAST FOUR YEARS, AND A SIX PERCENT RISE IN ARRIVALS,

RAS AL KHAIMAH CONTINUES TO MARCH STEADILY TOWARDS ITS GOALS AS HAITAM MATTAR, CEO, RAS AL KHAIMAH TOURISM DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY (TDA), EXPLAINS.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: The tourism authority lays great emphasis on attracting airlines to the emirate. What are the latest developments pertaining air connections?

HAITHAM MATTAR: We will continue to focus on our core markets of Western Europe, the UAE, India and Russia, and this year we will expand our focus into new and emerging markets such as China, the GCC countries, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.

Ras Al Khaimah TDA signed agreements with leading tour operators in many and Poland in October 2015 to welcome eight chartered flights to and from European destinations each week, including seven from Germany and one from Poland.

This agreement highlights the increasing demand for additional flights from key source markets to the emirate.

Ras Al Khaimah continues to partner with operators with the aim to welcome one million visitors by the end of 2018. The emirate benefits from varied and diverse source markets, with the UAE, UK, Germany, Russia and India continuing to occupy top spots. This year, we plan to further diversify these source markets.

Per week, the emirate flies in a total of approximately 7,100 seats via Air Arabia and a total of 425,000 seats per year with all the airlines that fly into Ras Al Khaimah International Airport.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: To attract one million visitors by the end of 2018 and position the emirate as a world-class destination of choice for authentic Arabian culture and experiences, the authority teamed up with TNS to better identify Ras Al Khaimah’s source markets and reposition the emirate. What is the Ras Al Khaimah brand about?

HAITHAM MATTAR: We have used the TNS results to analyse traveller preferences, offering a better understanding of Ras Al Khaimah’s positioning in various markets.

The TNS results have allowed us to identify and tackle any possible challenges which the research reveals. Breaking down these insights by market and traveller type allows us to target stakeholders effectively with strategically planned content through marketing, communications, advertising and trade relations.

The TNS results also revealed that overall, UAE visitors responded positively with regards to their most recent visit to Ras Al Khaimah, citing sandy beaches and mountains as two aspects that they were particularly happy with.

While these are key elements of the emirate’s offering, we aim to leverage the wider spectrum of Ras Al Khaimah’s tourism sector.

The first step to achieving this is a new brand and marketing plan for the destination, which we will be launching [this year] to reposition the destination on the world tourism stage.

The revamped brand will take into account the broad tourism offering including business, events, culture, adventure and beach as well as family.

The role of the marketing outreach will be twofold – firstly, to showcase Ras Al Khaimah’s rich varied offering and inspire travellers to consider the destination as a preferred holiday destination and secondly, to expand our operator and stakeholder partnerships.

The emirate is also developing a city application and a website in order to offer information to visitors at their fingertips.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What are Ras Al Khaimah TDA’s priorities for the coming months?

HAITHAM MATTAR: Ras Al Khaimah holds a great promise for the current year, being a travel destination of choice for visitors both for business and pleasure.

The rebranding, along with the marketing and advertising plan, will strategically reposition the emirate, placing emphasis on its broad offering for every type of visitor.

A key objective for the authority is to diversify its source markets and therefore [it is] one of the focus points for the year.

We are also launching new routes from Europe with Qatar Airways, via Doha […].

We plan to further expand our routes and partnerships within the public and private sectors in the coming years. We are proud to announce that [following Qatar Airways’ new flight from Doha, we are now] officially connected to over 170 destinations across the globe.

We have big plans for the year, such as hosting the European Golf Challenge Tour and Young Arab Leaders debate.

Ras Al Khaimah will also be revealing the extension developments on Jebel Jais mountain and introducing the soon to be operational outdoor cinema.