RAK tourism chief steps down after establishing emirate as adventure hub

Haitham Mattar took over in 2015 and a million tourists visited RAK in 2018

Ras Al Khaimah’s tourism chief who oversaw the transformation of the emirate into a regional adventure hub has stepped down.

Since Haitham Mattar took over in 2015, visitor numbers surged to one million last year as RAK opened the world’s longest zip line on Jebel Jais and launched a climbing route known as via ferrata.

A Bear Grylls academy - named after the famous adventurer - is set to open next year.

Mr Mattar said it had been a great run as head of the Tourism Development Authority but it was time for a new challenge.

“In such a short period of time we delivered a number of successes,” he said.

“I leave behind a legacy and a wonderful team, a uniquely authentic destination and the people of Ras Al Khaimah, who are the most beautiful part the emirate.”

Beside its sunny beaches and Hajar Mountains, the emirate has a rich heritage dating back thousands of years.

Haitham Mattar said it was time for a new challenge. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Haitham Mattar said it was time for a new challenge. Chris Whiteoak / The National

But it was the focus on adventure tourism that boosted the profile of RAK across the region. Aside from the world’s longest zipline – as certified by the Guinness Book of World Records – the emirate has extended hiking and biking trails, improved signage and even tried to pitch the emirate as a summer destination.

“The great outdoors is what has been missing from the UAE, particularly in the summer, but that is beginning to change with what we are building in RAK,” said Mr Mattar, in an interview with The National last year.

“The temperature can be 10 degrees lower in the mountains than in the rest of the country and there is very little humidity even in summer.”

Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, praised the achievements of Mr Mattar who he said had enhanced the reputation of the emirate.

Sheikh Saud appointed hotel industry veteran Raki Phillips as new chief executive.

Updated: June 21, 2019 06:00 PM

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