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Oman-RAK tourism tie-up could spur more alliances

Dhayah Fort is a heritage attraction in the wadis of Ras Al Khaimah Shutterstock
Dhayah Fort is a heritage attraction in the wadis of Ras Al Khaimah
  • Countries share natural assets
  • Tie-ups to attract cultural tourists
  • Unified GCC visa due soon

Oman and Ras Al Khaimah are drawing up plans to jointly promote tourism, with ambitions to become a destination for adventure holidays.

Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (Raktda) and Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran) said the deal was a “first of its kind”.

Officials described the partnership as a natural fit, with just a 90-minute drive between the countries and the shared asset of the Hajar mountain range. 

Tourism chiefs will focus on natural assets in Oman’s Musandam Governorate and Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah, the highest mountain peak in the UAE. 

Experts told AGBI that this type of collaboration makes good sense and others could follow in the region after the scheduled launch of a Gulf-wide tourist visa.

In the wider Middle East and North Africa, countries could look to form alliances with destinations that have different seasonal tourism patterns to help reduce the negative impacts of quieter months.

Last month, Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, the UAE’s minister of economy, said the visa, which will allow holders to travel across Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will be introduced next year or 2025.

Olivier Ponti from ForwardKeys, a travel analytics company in Spain, said: “Where countries share tourism assets, it makes sense for them to collaborate on product development, promotion and ease of access because together they can be more attractive as a destination than going it alone.” 

He also pointed to how the hosting of the Fifa World Cup in Qatar last year led to a boost in arrivals across the GCC. In 2034, neighbours of Saudi Arabia will be looking for a similar influx when the kingdom is scheduled to host the same event.

Seasonal swaps

Nicolas Nasra, head of hotel advisory, hospitality and tourism for Colliers in Dubai, said Mena countries with very different seasons could benefit from partnering.

“It could also be beneficial to collaborate with destinations that have similar seasonal patterns,” Nasra said in a research paper.

“This could involve joint promotional campaigns or shared tourism experiences, such as advertising each other’s festivals and events.”

He added that as Egypt’s tourism spikes happen during the “shoulder” or quieter seasons of the rest of the Middle East, it makes for an ideal partner to collaborate with. 

The agreement between Ras Al Khaimah and Oman, signed in London last month, will create opportunities for travellers to visit both in a single trip.

Revenue from Oman’s 3 to 5-star hotels swelled 26.6 percent year on year to OMR153 million ($397 million) during the first nine months of 2023. Hotel guest numbers also jumped by 27.3 percent to 1.43 million by the end of September.

In August, Ras Al Khaimah announced a record-breaking first six months, with a 15 percent increase in visitors to 600,000.

S&P Global Ratings said last month that Ras Al Khaimah’s tourism and infrastructure projects could strengthen its growth prospects over the next two to three years. 

The agency now rates Ras Al Khaimah’s long term outlook as “positive”, upgrading it from “stable” on the back of plans to open more than 20 hotels over the next five to six years, increasing its hotel room capacity by 90 percent.

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