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RAK tourism chief open to gamble on ‘gaming areas’

Raki Phillips Supplied
Raki Phillips said that four percent of the Wynn Al Marian resort will be dedicated to gaming
  • Ras Al Khaimah hopes to attract 5m tourists a year by 2030
  • Wynn Resorts hotel casino will be bigger than its one in Las Vegas
  • 19 new hotels are due to be built in RAK

Ras Al Khaimah’s tourism chief has revealed he would welcome more hotels with “gaming” elements to their offering as the emirate pushes its visitor number target to five million by 2030.

Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts announced a $3.9 billion investment last year – the northern emirate’s largest FDI project – to build their first beach integrated resort in RAK, which includes a casino.

Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) CEO Raki Phillips would not be drawn on the progress of licensing such a venture. Gambling in the UAE is illegal. However, he refused to rule out similar hotel developments in the future.

He told AGBI: “As an emirate we’re open for business. We’re always happy to have conversations with operators.”

As well as the designated “gaming area”, the Wynn Al Marian Island will feature 1,500 rooms, a shopping mall, conference facilities, a spa and more than 10 restaurants and lounges.

Ras Al Khaimah is the largest city and capital of the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, with a population of 116,000.

Phillips told Reuters this week that 4 percent of the resort will be dedicated to gaming, while Wynn’s CEO said the casino would be bigger than its Las Vegas venue.

“The UAE is a very forward-thinking nation, especially when it comes to tourism and what that impact of an investment will do,” Phillips said, according to Reuters.

The number of hotel and resort openings in the emirate grew by 17 percent year-on-year to more than 8,000 keys in 2022, according to RAKTDA.

There are 19 hotels with 5,867 keys in the pipeline from global brands such as Marriott, Millennium, Anantara and Sofitel – a 70 percent increase on the current inventory.

“It really shows that the destination right now is on its way up and there’s a tremendous amount of interest,” said Phillips.

Last year the emirate welcomed 1.13 million tourists, which was 4 percent higher than pre-pandemic numbers reported in 2019.

While in the first quarter of this year visitor numbers were up 13 percent year-on-year. Total revenue was up 27.9 percent against Q1 2022.

RAKTDA had previously set a target to reach 3 million tourists annually by 2030, although Phillips said that has since been revised.

“We feel that a more realistic number is roughly around 5 million,” he said.

The top international source markets for Q1 were Russia (45,416 visitors), Kazakhstan (14,152) and the UK (10,175).

A Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority spokesperson said: “Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority would like to clarify that the recent comment made in an interview with AGBI about Ras Al Khaimah being “open for business” has no specific reference to gaming. It was meant in terms of the Emirate’s openness for new opportunities in the hospitality sector and to having conversations with potential partners.”