Written by Rick Haymow
Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) might not have the huge oil and gas resources of the other members of the United Arab Emirates, but His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi has kept his emirate on a path of steady growth by fostering industries such as cement, ceramics and glass, pharmaceutical and tourism. The tourist sector in RAK is about to change dramatically in 2015 with the opening of a tourism complex to be built under the trademark of the Spanish football club, Real Madrid.
A Truly Unique Resort Experience
The resort has already been labeled “sportainment” due to its combination of sports along with more traditional and leisurely tourist activities. The $1 billion joint venture will include a 10,000-seat football stadium, luxury hotels, a marina and a themed amusement park. The 124-acre resort will be built on an artificial island, Al Marjan, and is expected to include a rollercoaster, a sports academy, a Real Madrid football club museum, shopping malls and residential areas.
While the complex is expected to draw tourists from around the world, from Minnesota to Madrid, it will also benefit RAK’s own community. For example, the planned football academy is expected to offer a unique learning opportunity for children and also ties in with Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi’s focus on improving education and community enrichment opportunities.
Developers want to make the resort attractive to more than just football fans. People who enjoy other sports, such as basketball, will find facilities devoted to various popular sports and activities. Also, since the resort will be located on an island, the beaches and water activities will likely entice more than just sports lovers to visit.
Tourism Growing in Ras Al Khaimah
Under the guidance of Sheikh Saud, the emirate has been developing tourism as a key sector in its overall economic growth. It started with efforts to preserve the ancient sites that show the history and culture of the region. Long a mecca for tourists wishing to immerse themselves in the traditions of the UAE, Ras Al Khaimah has witnessed a steady increase in tourism. By 2021, tourism is expected to represent 20 percent of RAK economy.
Long-Term Plans for RAK
Ras Al Khaimah is not standing still while waiting for the Real Madrid resort to begin construction this year. A Waldorf Astoria hotel, the jewel of the Hilton Hotel chain’s brand, is under construction. Another luxury resort scheduled to open in the emirate this year will offer guests the convenience of an all-inclusive feature under the management of its Turkish operator.
Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi sees the Real Madrid project, these new resorts and related tourism programs as instrumental in raising the profile of the UAE and, in particular, RAK to new levels.