Ras Al Khaimah finalising deal for luxury camp on Jebel Jais - the UAE's highest mountain

The camp will contain 36 individual villas  and be built 650 metres above sea level

The luxury camp set to built by Ras Al Khaimah's Tourism Development Authority at Jebel Jais - the highest mountain in the United Arab Emirates. Image used for illustrative purpose.

The luxury camp set to built by Ras Al Khaimah's Tourism Development Authority at Jebel Jais - the highest mountain in the United Arab Emirates. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Ras Al Khaimah's Tourism Development Authority

The chief executive of Ras Al Khaimah's Tourism Development Authority (RAK TDA) has said that it is already in the advanced stages of negotiations for a potential operator for a new luxury camp planned on Jebel Jais - the highest mountain in the United Arab Emirates.

In an interview with Zawya at the Arabian Travel Market conference and exhibition in Dubai on Sunday, Haitham Mattar, RAK TDA's chief executive officer, said that the new camp would be built on the mountain at a height of about 650 metres.

"This will be 36 units of tented villas with private swimming pools, fire pits, river pools, outdoor spa, outdoor yoga, a moon bar, restaurants and challenging adventure activities for children of all ages," Mattar said.

He added that plans are currently in the final stages of design for the camp and that "we're just in the final stage of selecting an operator now".

"We're in the negotiating process," he said. "We already have the submissions, we've gone through the negotiations, we have an internal committee who will open the envelopes, as they say, and then we'll be able to decide which operator we're going to go for," Mattar said.

"We are hoping to have this off the ground and up and running by 2020."

The villas will range in size from one-bed units for couples, to three-bed units with family rooms for larger groups.

Mattar said that the idea behind the camp was due to the fact that there had been a major increase in "non-regulated" camping, with people pitching up tents across the mountain.

"We did not at the time have any facilities to offer, but we have looked at the trend in the market with glamping, luxury camps and it's become a very popular trend. We thought with the weather on Jebel Jais, which is 10 degrees lower than the coast, and the natural terrain there with the beauty of the Hajjar mountains, (it) would give us a unique location for a luxury camp.

“And we didn't go about building a hotel - we specifically went for a luxury camp to give it that differentiation in the market," he added.

The luxury camp is part of a new sustainable tourism masterplan announced by RAKTDA at Arabian Travel Market on Sunday.

As part of this, the organisation has partnered with local waste management authorities to set targets for hotels to reduce the amount of waste they send to landfill by 75 percent within four years.

Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, has a target of receiving one million overnight visitors by the end of this year, and three million by 2025. Last week, the organisation said that visitor numbers in the emirate were up 12 percent year-on-year during the first quarter, which it said puts it on track to hit the 2018 target. It added that hotel occupancy during the quarter stood at 79.4 percent - up 4 percent on the same period last year.

Mattar said that in order to hit the three million visitor target by 2025 it is going to need many more hotel rooms. Its current hotel stock stands at about 5,500 rooms, he said, but that 6,000 more are now in the pipeline following an announcement by Emaar Hospitality last Wednesday that it is set to build a 249-room Address Hotel and 234 Address Residences apartments as part of its 2 million square foot development at Al Marjan Island.

"That is in addition to the Anantara, Intercontinental, Moevenpick, Millennium, Four Points by Sheraton and many other brands that are making their way to Ras Al Khaimah," Mattar said.

He argued that three years ago the emirate was heavily reliant on tourists from three main markets - Russia, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Now, he said “diversity is the name of the game”, with more tourists arriving from India (its fourth-biggest market), Scandinavia and from Eastern Europe, with four direct charter flights to Ras Al Khaimah from Poland and one scheduled flight from the Czech Republic each week boosting visitor numbers from these countries.

(Reporting by Michael Fahy; Editing by Shane McGinley)

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