By Yousef Saba
DUBAI (Reuters) – Russian-speaking tourists to the town of Ras Al Khaimah, part of the United Arab Emirates, have dipped since Russia invaded Ukraine, but visitors from other markets have offset that fall and overall visits are up this year, an official said on Tuesday.
Raki Phillips, chief executive of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, said tourists from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other former Soviet states typically made up 10% of annual visitors to the northern emirate about 120 kilometres from Dubai.
“However, during the crisis, of course there’s been an impact, but we are such a resilient destination that’s very international in our visitor arrivals that we haven’t seen a big dip in the numbers,” he told Reuters at the Arabian Travel Market trade fair in Dubai.
“Overall, we’ve seen a great increase in new markets for us. We were able to pivot, focus on Latin America, focus on the Indian market, and the GCC has been a big focus for us. All of those are markets that have been able to compensate any changes we’ve seen in the Russian market.”
The first quarter of this year saw 8% growth of visitor arrivals compared to the first quarter of 2019, he said. The fourth quarter of 2021 saw roughly 5% growth from the fourth quarter of 2019.
Before the pandemic, in 2019, RAK drew about 1.1 million arrivals. Last year, it attracted just shy of 1 million visitors and this year, expects to reach over 1.1 million “and we’re aspiring to get close to 1.2 million visitors,” Phillips said.
Phillips touted a multi-billion dollar investment by Wynn Resorts as testament to investors’ interest in the emirate’s tourism industry.
An integrated resort planned by Wynn Resorts, set to open in 2026, will offer “gaming”, a commonly used euphemism for gambling, which would be a first in Gulf Arab countries.
Sources have told Reuters that gambling would be permitted. UAE officials have not publicly commented on plans for the “gaming” resort.
(Reporting by Yousef Saba; Editing by Bernadette Baum)