In mid-February this year, General Director of Tourism Department of UAE Ras Al Khaimah Emirate, Haytham Mattar, visited Astana.
The visit aimed to establish international relations with representatives of our country’s tourism industry and to find common ground for further development of the tourist flow from Kazakhstan. Kazpravda.kz correspondent talked with the tourism expert and learned about the surprises for Kazakhstan tourists in the UAE in the new beach season.KAZPRAVDA.KZ:
Your visit took place during the tourist season in your country. What agreements have been reached with Kazakhstani counterparts?
- This year we have started to work actively with Kazakhstan. The beginning of our cooperation was laid in Ras Al Khaimah, where I met with the Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the UAE, Kairat Lama Sharif. We discussed the prospects for the development of bilateral cooperation and found common ground primarily in matters of tourism, exchange of experience in the development of tourism, domestic tourism. At the meeting we also discussed statistics from Kazakhstan. So, last year the number of tourists from Kazakhstan increased by 205 percent compared to 2015. It is an unprecedented growth, and we are proud that more Kazakhstanis come to Ras Al Khaimah. To us Kazakhstan is a key market on our development strategy - Vision-2019. The program target is to attract 1 million tourists by 2020. As part of our cooperation, we plan to hold meetings with representatives of the tourism industry of Kazakhstan to exchange experience.KAZPRAVDA.KZ:
The figures are really significant, but at the mention of the United Arab Emirates, first of all Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah come to mind. Kazakhstanis have long been choosing these resorts, rather than a holiday in the Ras Al Khaimah emirate. In what way could it be attractive for our tourists?
- Given that Kazakhstan is a key market to us, we are trying to change to suit Kazakhstan tourists’ preferences. In Ras Al Khaimah there are 41 hotels from 1 to 5 stars, of any budget. It is a quiet place, but with recreations for every taste - from water sports to high altitude climbing. In the desert, there are Bedouin camps, in which nomadic tribes’ life style has survived, jeep safari on steep barkhans is possible. There is nature reserve where you can see falcons, oryxes, camels and other animals in their natural habitat. For fans of extreme sports, we offer different activities in the mountains - rock climbing, hiking, trekking, mountain biking, and via ferrata. For those who want to explore the culture and history of the emirate, there is the National Museum of Ras al-Khaimah, ancient Daya fort - a symbol of the emirate, the ghost town of Jazirat Al Hamra. In addition, there are also ordinary recreations- aqua parks, shopping centers, go-carting center, kayaking and much more.
Still, not every holiday can be called affordable. Please specify the sum a tourist would spend there?
- For six nights a holiday in Ras Al Khaimah can cost from 750 to 2 086 dollars per one person.KAZPRAVDA.KZ:
You said that you research the tourists’ preferences. What do tourists from Kazakhstan value most of all in the vacation?
- We constantly conduct monitoring and research in our key markets, which include Kazakhstan. I think that it will not be a secret that Kazakhstani tourists, like many others, love and appreciate comfort, service, so that they do not have to worry about anything during the vacation. In this respect, Ras Al Khaimah is an ideal place, with a quiet and friendly atmosphere, offering a complete relaxation. Kazakhstan tourists are very fond of the Rixos hotel. It is 80% full in the season, largely due to Kazakhstan tourists. We see that your tourists are very fond of traveling with their families, so we try to make sure that the hotels have all the necessary services for it. Many hotels have children's clubs, where experienced animators will be playing with the kids, babysitting services are available, highchairs, cots, even bottle sterilizers. In addition, many hotels offer all-inclusive system, which is also much liked by Kazakhstan tourists. The hotels try to provide for every detail for a convenient family vacation. Kazakhstan tourists also like active recreation in the mountains. Of course, we do not have snow-capped peaks, like yours, but the Hajar mountains are beautiful too. At the end of last year, we launched a new entertainment - via ferrata - a specially equipped site in the highest mountain Jebel Jais, where one can try rock climbing and zip-line ride. This year we are opening the world's longest zip-line and welcome Kazakhstan tourists for the opening.KAZPRAVDA.KZ:
Judging by the story, your emirate offers a good list of services. What did Kazakhstani colleagues suggest in return? What do you think would attract Arab tourists to Kazakhstan?
- Kazakhstan is an amazing country, I really enjoyed the visit here. It seems to me that Ras Al Khaimah and Kazakhstan are very much alike. You also have mountains and there is a tendency to leave business centers to be closer to nature. Arabs often come from Abu Dhabi and Dubai to Ras Al Khaimah to enjoy peace and tranquility. In Kazakhstan, I think they will really like, for example, the capital Astana with skyscrapers and dynamism. And they will definitely like the tranquil towns that are closer to nature. I know that you have an amazing mountain resort Shymbulak and a high-mountain skating rink - this will surely please the Arab guests, who very rarely or have never seen snow. Arab tourists, of course, will be pleasantly surprised by the local residents’ hospitality, which is similar to Arab hospitality. Of great importance, in my opinion, is the religious component: Arab tourists will not feel cultural barriers. Unfortunately, this time I could not meet all the strategic partners, but I hope to return to Kazakhstan this year. We started working with local tour operators - Kazunion and Kompass and are planning to expand cooperation. We are always happy to help our partners with their requests. This year, we joined the UN Sustainable Tourism for Development Program. As part of this initiative, we are ready to share our experience in developing domestic tourism for Kazakhstan and to provide all possible assistance. In turn, Kazakhstan tourism industry representatives will help us to develop, to find growth points, improvements that can help make recreation more convenient.