Emerging Gulf tourism hub plays down flight loss

Published on : Wednesday, January 15, 2014

UAE’s-RAK-AirwaysMuscat: In an attempt to insulate its aviation sector, the committee in-charge of developing tourism in Ras Al Khaimah has played down the impact of the loss of direct flights to the emirate.

Hilton Worldwide, which operates seven hotels in the UAE’s northern tip, has also denied the suspension of the emirate’s only airline would significantly impact its guests.

Suddenly RAK Airways suspended flights with immediate effect on January 2, citing increased operating costs and regional instability. It had served 12 destinations across the Middle East using a fleet of two Airbus A320-200 aircraft and carried 300,000 passengers in 2012. Incidentally, as recently as August the airline had said it was aiming to increase its routes to 40 by 2015.

RAK Tourism Development Authority chief executive officer Steve Rice said the loss of direct flights would have little impact on the emirate’s improving tourism industry, which grew by 150 percent more than the global average growth rate in 2013.

“Whilst the suspension of RAK Airways is not ideal we do not think it will impact significantly on the strong growth we have seen,” Rice told Arabian Business.

“RAK Airways did not service Ras Al Khaimah’s key feeder markets and the majority of inbound tourism to Ras Al Khaimah comes through Dubai International Airport and Sharjah International Airport, both approximately 45 minutes drive from Ras Al Khaimah.

“Our main concern at the moment is to assist any visitors to RAK that have been affected by the closure.

RAK Airways is providing refunds or alternative transport arrangements for all customers affected and Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority is working closely with the airline.”

Hilton Worldwide Ras Al Khaimah country manager Mohab Ghali said few guests at his hotels, which dominate the emirate’s accommodation sector, used the airline but he hoped new transport options would become available soon.

“Though the majority of our guests travel via Dubai International Airport, we are hopeful that local airports and airlines will continue to do what is best for their business and RAK and continue to attract regional and global travelers,” he said. RAK Airways also suspended flights for two years in 2009 following the economic crisis.

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