RAS AL KHAIMAH, United Arab Emirates – Ras Al Khaimah expects Russian visitor numbers to stabilize this year as they avoid key destinations in the region because of security concerns.
Of the 740,383 tourists to the emirate last year, about 8.2 percent were from Russia and it remains an important source market, said Haitham Mattar, the chief executive of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAK TDA).
“We remain optimistic that Russian visitor indicators will continue to stabilize over the coming years, following our efforts to further connect Ras Al Khaimah with the Russian market,” he said.
Qatar Airways, which started flying four times a week from RAK airport this month, is expected to bring tourists from Russia and other European destinations such as Germany and Austria.
Low oil prices, currency fluctuation and a deteriorating economy had hit Russian visitors to the UAE.
In Dubai alone, the number of tourists from Russia, CIS and Eastern European region dropped 22.5 percent last year compared to 2014, according to Dubai Tourism.
Despite the decline in Russian visitors during the first half of the year to the emirate, RAK TDA reported a 4 percent growth in Russian tourists in the fourth quarter.
“As we further drive the development of the emirate’s leisure tourism offering, we are seeing guests from the Russian market and beyond choosing to extend their stays,” Mr Mattar said.
The average length of stay of Russians to Ras Al Khaimah increased to 8.77 nights last year from 5.76 nights in 2014.
Affordable room rates along the beaches of the Northern Emirates and security concerns in traditional markets such as Egypt and Turkey have been cited as reasons for the growth, as reported earlier by The National.
For the weekend of February 18, a room at the five-star Rixos Bab Al Bahr in Ras Al Khaimah costs Dh389 all-inclusive for a night. At Rixos the Palm in Dubai, a room on the same weekend starts from Dh831.43 for a night, according to the hotels’ websites.
The average room rate in RAK last year was Dh640.32, up from Dh631.84 in 2014, according to the research company STR Global.
Turkey was the top destination for Russians last year as it attracted 3.6 million tourists, according to figures from the Turkish tourism ministry.
In 2014, Russia was the largest source market for tourists to Egypt, according to the consultants Euromonitor. Egypt is yet to release tourism data for last year.
But both the countries lost some of their appeal late last year. Russia cancelled all flights to Egypt in November after the crash of a Russian plane over the Sinai peninsula, killing 224 passengers. Also in November, Russia asked its citizens to cancel trips to Turkey after Ankara downed a Russian fighter jet in Syria.