The Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah is one of seven individual emirates that comprise the UAE. Known as being the only emirate to have never discovered natural oil reserves, Ras Al Khaimah has had to face an uphill battle when it comes to maintaining competition with the rest of the region. As a result of their lack of oil, Ras Al Khaimah has seen focused efforts by RAK ruler Sheikh Saud as well as the Tourism Development Authority Board to change the complexion of Ras Al Khaimah’s economy.

Growing the Tourism Industry

Due to the fact that Ras Al Khaimah never got to profit from the oil industry, the emirate has been forced to diversify its economy in other ways. While manufacturing, textiles, and technology are important in Ras Al Khaimah, the tourism sector continues to grow, pushing to supersede all other industries.

According to a report released by the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, the emirate saw a 4% increase in arrivals throughout the region in 2019. According to the same report, the influx of inbound growth from foreign visitors was likely due in large part to the concentrated efforts of the tourism authority board. The Emirate’s focus on launching such festivals and experiences as the Jais Sky Tour, the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon, and the Tough Mudder all boosted visits to the region.

Raki Phillips is the CEO of RAKTDA and he had much to say about the aforementioned tourist report. Phillips noted, “Ras Al Khaimah is in the midst of its three-year destination strategy which aims to broaden its reach through increased segmentation.” Philips would go on to discuss ‘high-yield’ events and ‘sustainable nature-based adventure’ as key points of focus for his board to continue spearheading.

If the report published by RAKTDA is guiding the efforts of Ras Al Khaimah then there is more good news on the way. RAKTDA is purportedly targeting a visitor threshold of 1.5 million by the time 2021 rolls into view. RAK is prepared to install more than 6,200 new rooms to the area through global brands like Marriott, Sheraton, and Intercontinental. If Phillips is successful in leading this renovation, RAKTDA will have effectively doubled the rooms for visitors by 2021.

Embracing International Business

Taken alone, Ras Al Khaimah’s ability to foster growth in the tourism sector is a stunning and positive insight. When added to the fact that Ras Al Khaimah has seen vigorous growth in global rankings regarding Ease of Doing Business, things are looking even better.

According to a report released as the third chapter in Subnational’s ‘Doing Business’ benchmark, Ras Al Khaimah surged to a ranking of 29/190 when comparing Ease of Doing Business scores. A great EODB score means that a country is particularly welcoming to new businesses. This welcome can manifest in a number of different ways, from reduced tax incentives to efficient registration and everything in between.

As the report is written, Ras Al Khaimah surged to an EODB score north of 77.52, a number which puts Ras Al Khaimah higher than the entirety of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Placed firmly in the world’s top 30 economies in the realm of doing business, Ras Al Khaimah has positioned itself to continue bringing in new businesses to the area.

Outside of the impact that an improved EODB score will have on Ras Al Khaimah’s growing economy, the emirate also saw major improvements in other key areas. According to the same report, Ras Al Khaimah improved their efficiency and ability to outright old commercial disputes through the Ras Al Khaimah court system. Data compiled by the World Bank would go on to detail that contract enforcement in Ras Al Khaimah would take 160 days and nearly 24.9 percent of a value’s claim while Singapore, one of the top regulators in the world, took 164 days.

Ras Al Khaimah’s continued growth in the EODB category is an overt indicator that the emirate is taking very real steps toward improving its infrastructure for foreign investors. Since 2016, Ras Al Khaimah has seen its EODB score jump from 62 to 71 when dealing with construction-related permits, 67.87 to 69.25 for contract enforcement, and 84.51 to 86.12 for outright starting a business.

While Ras Al Khaimah is enjoying renewed optimism due to vigorous growth, it remains to be seen how much of a delay global concerns pertaining to the COVID-19 virus will make in terms of future expectations.

In order to form an appreciation for the changes that Sheikh Saud and the Tourism Authority Board have made, let’s first take a closer look at the emirate itself.

The History of Ras Al Khaimah

Ras AL Khaimah has been home to constant human habitation for more than 7,000 years. Due to the age of the emirate as well as the transient history of its people, there are archeological wonders nestled in every nook and cranny of the massive region. Dig sites pertaining to ancient history in Ras Al Khaimah currently number in the thousands according to locals.

Ras Al Khaimah’s name can be translated to ‘Top of the Tent’ due to its location along the border of Oman. Nestled in the northeastern section of the UAE, Ras Al Khaimah has a population of only 416,000. Only 30% of the total population of RAK is composed of local Emirati citizens.

The largest city in Ras Al Khaimah is the capital city of RAK, also known as RAK City. RAK City is home to the vast majority of Ras Al Khaimah’s Emirati population. RAK City is divided into two primary locations, Old Town and Nakheel.

Ras Al Khaimah is rapidly becoming one of the most fascinating tourist destinations in the world. Alongside a booming economy and loosening restrictions surrounding the development of business, it looks like His Highness Sheikh Saud and the rest of the government have found their focus. Who is to say what Ras Al Khaimah will look like in a dozen years or more? Could RAK City be the next Dubai?