The Russians are returning to Ras Al Khaimah.
Once the lifeblood of tourism in the northern emirates, Russian holidaymakers have been kept away by the weak rouble, which has made holidays in the emirates comparatively expensive.
But now hoteliers say numbers are creeping up again. Russian tourists are seeking safer destinations after the October 2015 terror attack on a Russian plane that killed everyone onboard shortly after taking off from Sharm el Sheikh airport.
The Russian tourist market in Ras Al Khaimah grew by 23.6 per cent to 2,224 tourists in January, compared with January last year, following roadshows in Russia with Emirates airline.
The emirate expects to attract thousands of tourists from Europe this year as key destinations in Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey lose appeal over security concerns.
RAK was among a handful of destinations globally that increased its Russian tourist numbers this year, said Haitham Mattar, the chief executive of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority.
The RAK tourism agency signed a deal last week with the UK travel agency Thomas Cook to promote the area in the UK, Germany, Norway, Denmark and Finland.
Tourists who already visit from these markets have an average five to six-night stays in the emirate.
While Germany and the UK are Ras Al Khaimah’s two top source markets for tourists, there is potential to increase this, said Haitham Mattar, the chief executive of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority. During the first quarter, Thomas Cook reported a decline of £36 million (Dh186m) in revenues from the Tunisian market, £23m from Turkey and £13m from the Egyptian market year-on-year.
The three countries have been hit by security concerns during the past year with bombings in Turkey, a passenger jet crash in Egypt and terrorist attacks in Tunisia.
“People are looking for alternatives and Ras Al Khaimah is a natural alternative to those destinations, with its beach, adventure and cultural heritage offerings besides being value for money,” Mr Mattar said.
Thomas Cook will not operate its charter flights from Europe to RAK but this is under discussion, said Mr Mattar.
From March 28, Air India Express will start flying into RAK airport from Kerala four times a week.
“We are targeting the Indian wedding market besides the tourists from India,” Mr Mattar said.
Qatar Airways started flights last month to the airport, while Air Arabia already operates from the emirate.
This year, RAK will add hundreds of new hotel rooms, including those from the expansion of DoubleTree by Hilton Resort and Spa Marjan Island and the new hotel Golden Tulip.
In the pipeline are another 3,600 rooms that are expected to be ready by the end of 2019.
RAK has 5,000 hotel rooms from 42 hotels, with 19 of them rated at four and five stars.