DUBAI // Music festivals and beach parties to rival Ibiza and Miami are planned across four man-made islands in Ras Al Khaimah.
Property developers are in talks with music companies and promoters to stage shows that will transform the northernmost emirate into an entertainment hub.
Attracting events to Al Marjan Island, a cluster of four islands extending 4.5 kilometres into the Gulf, is part of longer-term plans to draw more tourists and residents.
“Just like Ibiza or Miami, which are destinations where the attractions are all on the water, it’s an idea we are working to develop in Al Marjan Island,” an official for the islands said.
“We’re hoping to get music lovers from all around the world to all the islands. We’re working to bring music festivals for people in the UAE also to enjoy.
“We’re also hoping to attract beach clubs, because we do have beautiful beaches.”
Development will take between three and five years, the official said.
The beach clubs and parties are likely to roll out on Dream Island followed by the other three.
The other islands are Breeze, Treasure and View, Al Marjan Island Company said.
RAK’s beaches are popular with visitors from Germany, Russia, the UK and India, as well as UAE residents.
About 330,048 people visited the emirate in the first half of last year, a dip from 577,900 during the same period in 2013, according to tourist authority figures. The slump was blamed on a weak rouble, resulting in fewer Russian tourists to the Emirates.
The plan to tap other tourism sources in the UAE was welcomed.
“This is a fantastic idea, and having other options will help, particularly with the sudden drop in arrivals from Russia, with the rouble suffering a hit of 35 to 40 per cent against the dollar,” said Kulwant Singh, managing director of Lama Tours and Holidays.
“RAK is known for expensive hotels so if this happens, we can get tourists not just from Moscow and St Petersburg, but we can tap Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
“RAK is widening its reach and this will help to target other markets interested in beach parties, like the UK.”
The company handles about 10,000 tourists a year heading to RAK.
“We have mainly day visitors for RAK but if they are able to start new attractions, the day visitors will increase; they will stay overnight for a day or two, if we were to do a Dubai-RAK combination. The same is now happening with Dubai and Yas Island,” said Mr Singh.
There have been several hyped developments announced during the boom years across the UAE that failed to take off because of the global downturn.
The US$1 billion (Dh3.67 bn) Real Madrid Resort Island project, announced in 2012 for RAK, was to include a theme park, stadium and a museum on a 50-hectare site, but it was shelved a year later because of a lack of funding.
A partly solar-powered project named after a former Wimbledon tennis champion, the $817m Boris Becker Beach Resort & Tennis Academy, was launched in RAK in 2008 but was also shelved.
The recreational and residential development was to include holiday homes, a hotel and conference facilities.
Indian Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan endorsed the Shah Rukh Khan Boulevard residential towers in RAK but, again, they were also shelved in 2008.
Families who choose to stay in alcohol-free hotels in RAK may be disappointed with plans for clubbing on the beach, but industry experts insisted both sides could coexist.
“Alcohol and parties are not an issue any more. This is what is needed because people will come from other emirates and other countries,” said Khalid Motik, managing director of E-Hjeez, an online travel portal.
“The main market is because of the beaches – people come for the sun from Germany, Russia, the UK. These new activities are needed and then RAK has very good potential, both locally and regionally.”