RAS AL KHAIMAH: Ras Al Khaimah – the northernmost emirate in the United Arab Emirates – will this month launch adventure tours with the region’s first commercial Via Ferrata (Iron Path).
The three-course Via Ferrata spans the rocky facades of Jebel Jais, the country’s highest peak which rises to 6,266 feet and is part of the rugged Al Hajar mountain range where the average climate is 10 degrees Celsius below mean Gulf temperatures.
Due to be opened to the public later this month, the new adventure product, which is just 45 minutes from Ras Al Khaimah’s growing stock of superb beachfront resorts, is part of the emirate’s Vision 2019 Destination Tourism strategy and has been produced by Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) which is now working with industry stakeholders to develop experience packages to also cover accommodation and travel.
“The world-class Via Ferrata is the first in a range of mountain, activity and adventure products we are developing specifically for nature and adventure seekers,” said Haitham Mattar, CEO, RAKTDA, which develops the emirate’s tourism infrastructure and initiates its domestic and overseas promotions.
“Already on the drawing board is the world’s longest zip-line and adventure park, which we are planning to launch in Q4 2017. We believe the Via Ferrata and our planned adventure tourism products will have strong appeal with both the domestic and overseas activitytourism and sports market and we are currently engaging source market trade partners who want to join hands with us in developing a niche sector, which leverages Ras Al Khaimah’s spectacular mountain terrain resources.
“Our Vision 2019 includes a roadmap for innovative hospitality concepts which take advantage of our destination’s unique natural assets – including amazing coastline, stunning mountain ranges, hot springs and expansive desert. We have identified these areas as excellent opportunities for investment inluxury mountain resorts and wellness retreats.
“Ras al Khaimah’s natural and cultural assets are well positioned to target key high-yield global tourist segments including wellness seekers, active adventurers and cultural explorers. We can offer these visitor segments adventure through mountain activities, 7,000 years of historic sights and authentic Arabian culture, as well as other unique features such as hot springs and access to untouched nature. With Ras al Khaimah’s natural assets offering popular hiking, driving and trekking, we are welcoming amateur and professional adventurers on their own private trips and at large scale events such as the GCC Hiking Championship and North Face Run. And with the Via Ferrata as the first in a lineup of future projects planned including the longestzip-line, cycling tours and unique accommodation concepts, the potential for activity, nature and adventure-based tourism market is huge.”
Ras Al Khaimah’s 470 metre-long Via Ferrata is unique to the region in that it comprises three individual start and finish points, as well as three zip-lines measuring 165 feet, 195 feet and 985 feet to expand possibilities for various age and fitness capabilities.
Tourist groups, who will be offered complimentary transfers from the centre of the city, will be able to choose from the three routesin twice-daily supervised tours starting at 8am and 1pm.
The standard course, the Ledge Walk, will take the average group of eight adventurers around four hours to complete. The middle, technical route – the Middle Path – will take around 3.5 hours and the higher, vertical route – Julphar Scare – will take around 1.5 hours.
Minimum age and weight restrictions apply for adventurers who must be at least 12 years old and weigh at least 6.5 stone and no more than 15.5 stone. Challengers over 65 years of age may be asked for a doctor’s clearance before being accepted.
“All clients will need to prove themselves on the standard course before being allowed on one of the more technical routes,” explained Mattar. “It’s a unique opportunity to experience the dramatic Jebel Jais scenery at just under 400 feet – that’s the height of a 30-storey building.”
A highly skilled team will operate the Via Ferrata with stringent safety and emergency rescue procedures in place. The Via Ferrata is being operated by Absolute Adventure, one of the Gulf’s largest adventure operators. The company’s 35-strong workforce comprises highly-qualified outdoor instructors who all hold current wilderness first aid certification.
With RAKTDA currently developing Jebel Jais into an adventure and activity tourism hub, the rugged terrain already plays host to extreme climbing, hiking, driving and trekking enthusiasts. For the less adventurous, Ras Al Khaimah’s natural mountain beauty will soon be available to enjoy from observation decks that are being planned for the Jebel Jais peak.
Ahead of its November launch, RAKTDA will leverage the impending Via Ferrata launch at this week’s World Travel Market in London, where 16 tourism industry stakeholders from across Ras Al Khaimah will promote an array of leisure, adventure, culture and MICE products as part of the emirate’s target of attracting one million visitors by 2018.