Ras Al Khaimah's planned multibillion-dollar resort on Marjan Island with Las Vegas hotel operator Wynn Resorts will create at least 4,000 jobs and become the next “catalyst” for tourism in the emirate and the UAE, an official has said.
The economic benefits from the mega resort will be “massive”, stimulating foreign direct investments and employment in the northern emirate, Raki Phillips, chief executive of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, told The National on Thursday.
“From an employment and FDI perspective, it will be great,” he said.
“On a conservative basis, this would create easily over 4,000 additional jobs at a minimum, if not more.
“Every now and then you get a catalyst of something that launches in the tourism industry that takes it to the next level … I truly believe that Wynn will be the next tourism catalyst to the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah and to the UAE and we're very excited about it.”
Wynn Resorts, the Las Vegas-based hotel and casino operator, in January announced plans to develop a multibillion-dollar beachside resort in Ras Al Khaimah, marking the biggest FDI in the emirate.
The resort, which is designed to include 1,000 rooms and a “gaming” area, will open in 2026. Wynn is best known for its casino hotel resorts in Las Vegas, Boston and Macau.
The emirate has attracted nearly Dh2bn in tourism projects this year, with more deals in the pipeline, Mr Phillips said.
Asked if the authority has been approached by other casinos for similar deals following the Wynn announcement, he said: “Not at this time, our focus is really to continue to diversify our tourism strategy, making sure the destination continues to be at the forefront and offering opportunities … We are such an easy place to do business in.”
The emirate, which is traditionally popular with Eastern European tourists, has registered only a slight dip of 2.7 per cent in visitors from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus this year, following Moscow's military offensive in Ukraine, Mr Phillips said.
The three countries together make up about 10 per cent of the total annual visitors to Ras Al Khaimah, he added.
However, the impact was compensated by growth in visitors from other markets in Latin America, the GCC and India, he said.
The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority opened representative offices in Sao Paulo, Riyadh and Mumbai this year to attract more visitors.
“We pivoted to look at other markets to help support other declines in the short or long term,” Mr Phillips said. “It's important to be nimble and work quickly not to miss opportunities.”
Overall visitor numbers are up this year, despite a number of challenges stemming from the Kazakhstan crisis, the Russia-Ukraine war and higher oil prices, he said.
In the first quarter, tourist arrivals into Ras Al Khaimah rose 8.2 per cent from the same period in 2019 to 286,000 visitors, with significant growth in visitors from Germany, UK, Poland and the Czech Republic, Mr Phillips said.
The emirate, which hosted 1.1 million tourists in 2019 and 990,000 in 2021, is on track to fully recover this year and even “significantly surpass” pre-pandemic levels, he added.
Ras Al Khaimah continues its rebound from the impact of Covid-19 through opening new hotels, developing Jebel Jais attractions, enhancing hiking trails and promoting its beaches and mountains to travellers seeking open, spacious areas for personal wellness post-pandemic.
A revival in business events and exhibitions, the return of destination weddings and the popularity of glamping sites will help drive growth this year, Mr Phillips said.
The focus on Latin America, India and Gulf markets will also continue to be a priority.
“Brazil is a gateway to the entire region,” he said. “I have a lot of high hopes for India. It has big potential, it's a big market within close proximity.”
Meanwhile, higher inflation rates and the impact of higher oil prices on global travel demand is a “huge concern” but the destination remains great value for money, he said.