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Ras Al Khaimah grows as new destination weddings market for India

New Delhi: After Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s northernmost emirate with an uninterrupted history of 7,000 years, Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), has begun to attract Indian travellers, whose numbers grew by 22 per cent in 2023 to touch 1,40,000.

The emirate received 1.22 million tourists from across the world last year; Indian arrivals therefore contributed to more than 10 per cent of the total.

The growing interest in this primarily leisure destination led to IndiGo flagging off a daily flight to the Ras Al Khaimah International Airport last year to complement the other daily service from Mumbai. RAK, as a result, receives 14 flights weekly from India.

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Interestingly, some of the momentum for this growth has come from the wedding market, with Indians seeing in RAK a new and exciting place to get married at. And the tourism authorities at RAK are ready to go to any lengths to meet the demands of Indian brides and grooms.

Raki Phillips, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, who was in New Delhi, mentioned how an Indian bride was hung up on being escorted by police vehicles, sirens blaring, from the airport after she landed. The emirate’s police chief ensured she wasn’t disappointed.

Although RAK, which has a rich maritime history, is known for its white-sand beaches, pearl divers and being home to one of the world’s largest ceramics companies, it is very much on the map of wedding planners.

India’s outbound wedding market pie is what the world seeks to dip its fingers into. Phillips recalled how Hollywood’s favourite wedding planner, Preston Bailey, speaking at a major international conference of his fraternity, had declared that people who haven’t been to an Indian wedding do not really know what a big fat wedding really is all about.

“In 2023, Ras Al Khaimah’s wedding revenue surged by 103 per cent, driven by the demand for destination weddings from India,” Phillips said, adding that the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority conducts online certification programmes for wedding planners to acquaint them with the legal process to facilitate and fast track civil marriages.

The wedding market, coupled with the adventure sports segment, which is a big attraction at RAK, has also propelled the hospitality industry in the emirate, with the biggest development being the upcoming $3.9 billion, 1,500-key Wynn Al Marjan Island.

“We are doubling our hospitality portfolio with a pipeline of more than 20 properties set to add 6,999 keys to the current hotel inventory of 8,049 keys over the next few years,” Phillips said, mentioning also that global brands such as the Waldorf Astoria, Anantara, Nobu Hotels, W and Sofitel are all in different stages of opening, eyeing of course the affluent traveller.

Outwardly mobile Indians now have a new destination to check out within a nation they are all too familiar with.

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