Nothing beats the feeling of sun on your skin and a fresh breeze in your lungs, which is likely why adventure tourism is one of the biggest travel sectors of the moment. Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE is the perfect example of a destination carving out a niche for itself as a regional hub for adventurous tourists, but what exactly makes the perfect adventure getaway? Read on to find out.
While adventure can be found wherever you want it, this article looks into the rising trend of tourists looking for adrenaline-inducing activities. Typically these take place outdoors. Think extreme sports, challenging activities that get your heart racing, and discovery tours that take you into the unknown.
On the back of a couple of years' worth of staying (relatively) put thanks to global restrictions, it's no surprise that people are taking advantage of travel freedoms by heading into the wide open spaces of the great outdoors.
With that said though, the worldwide adventure tourism market achieved significant development even throughout the 2020-2021 period, growing from US$374.2 million to US$495.7 million. This year, 2022, is expected to see that number rise to more than US$638 million, and by 2030 the sector is expected to skyrocket in value to a massive US$4,186 million.
The numbers speak for themselves; adventure travel is an undeniably big business.
But what are adventurers looking for in a vacation?
According to the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), the top trending motivations for adventure travel in 2021 were new experiences, going off the beaten track, travelling like a local, last chance travel (wanting to visit a location before access is restricted), wellness or betterness goals, and cultural adventures. These were followed by 'warm' trends, including digital detox, considering adventure travel as a status symbol, pampering and luxury, an adrenaline rush or challenge, and going on popular adventures.
While the reasons for heading off on an adventure vary wildly, they do have one thing in common: people are looking for experiences that are not only memorable, but transformational and even potentially life-changing.
This is confirmed by another study conducted by the ATTA, which found that the majority of adventurers are looking for transformation, described by phrases such as 'personal growth and challenge', 'accomplishment, achievement', and 'gratitude and mindfulness'. The study also found that an expanded worldview and learning are important, too.
Despite having plenty to offer that meet the above-mentioned desirables for adventure travel, the Middle East is still overshadowed by destinations elsewhere in the world.
... and yet Ras Al Khaimah is on the way to changing that, by seizing the opportunity to position itself as the region's go-to for big thrills and adventure getaways.
What’s Going On In Ras Al Khaimah?
Located in the northern UAE and nestled between the Hajar Mountains, the shores of the Arabian Gulf, and serene desert, Ras Al Khaimah is in the process of building what can best be described as an epic adventure playground.
At Arabian Travel Market 2021, the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) announced an AED500 million (US$136 million) tourism investment plan, focused on attracting 1.5 million thrill seekers and lovers of the outdoors a year.
The emirate is already home to the world's longest zipline. It's a go-to for hiking, fishing, mountain exploration... and even sees snow every so often, especially on the country's highest peak, Jebel Jais. Upcoming projects will build on this by establishing a solid ecosystem that will hit the target on several adventurer wants. These include camping and glamping sites, luxury mountain lodges, an open air cinema, the first dedicated paragliding site in the GCC, a hot air balloon base, bicycle pump track at Wadi Shawka, and much more. Naturally, Emirati culture will be in the spotlight too. Visitors will even be able to go oyster and scallop diving, in line with the region's rich pearling heritage.
There is a concerted effort in place to create an overall experience that is absolutely unforgettable - a big tick for adventure-seekers.
Ras Al Khaimah is also a new experience for many travellers. It's relatively off the beaten track. It offers cultural immersion experiences. It hits the status symbol, pampering and luxury, and adrenaline rush trends.
By ticking so many boxes, Ras Al Khaimah is paving the way for the UAE, and the wider region, to become a fixture on the global map for adventure travel. But, perhaps more importantly, it sets an example that others can follow; by understanding what your target audience wants most, you can create a tailored experience to draw them in.
After all, as the saying goes: if you build it, they will come.
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