By all accounts, His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr al Qasimi is pleased with the progress his emirate, Ras Al Khaimah, has made in attracting visitors and investment. Though he’s not one to brag out of turn, his public statements indicate that he and his leadership team feel quite secure in their judgment that RAK is ascendant among its UAE fellows. It’s clear that RAK is committed to developing on its own terms — sustainably, steadily and without the pomp and flash that characterize Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr al Qasimi doesn’t appear to rely on good fortune or the munificence of others to shepherd his emirate through whatever economic storms may come. That said, he’s quite pleased with one particular partner that doesn’t get enough credit for its contributions to RAK’s recent successes. That partner: China.
China’s economy has hit some bumps during the past year, but the country still accounts for a huge slice of global tourism by dint of its population. In fact, China originated more than 62 million international tourist trips in 2014. That doesn’t include trips for business or other non-leisure purposes.
In the UAE, China-originated traffic increased by more than 125 percent last year. That’s a staggering spike given the Middle Kingdom’s uneven economic conditions — and a powerful argument that Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr al Qasimi and his consummate economic development team are making all the right moves on the sales front. As RAK’s (and the wider UAE’s) profile as a first-rate, high-end destination and innovation incubator continues to grow, it’s likely to enjoy a deepening relationship with the world’s most populous country.
Mutual Respect, Mutual Benefit
The relationship between RAK and China is best described as a partnership of equals. A recent RAK-held conference dubbed MeetChina illustrates this point well. MeetChina drew more than a dozen regional media specialists and about 70 high-level representative from China’s booming travel industry. All wanted to know more about the business and leisure opportunities that RAK's long-term investments have created — and all seemed rather impressed by the progress they saw.
Next Steps for RAK, China and the Wider World
Under the guidance of Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr al Qasimi, RAK’s mutually beneficial ties with China are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future. And that future may bring initiatives that aren’t even on the radar yet.
One promising area of cooperation lies in the medical field. RAK is rapidly developing a reputation as an international medical destination, thanks to the construction of a cutting-edge hospital and the growth of Gulf Pharmaceuticals, the Gulf Region’s first native pharmaceutical company. Going forward, local efforts to develop halal vaccines to better serve Muslim patients are likely to find receptive markets in western China, where there is a substantial Muslim minority population, as well as adjacent southeast Asian nations.
As the economic sun continues to rise in the East, RAK is well-positioned to take advantage.