The cruise industry is gaining momentum and proving to be one of the most significant contributors to the post-pandemic travel recovery, according to the UAE’s emergent cruise destination of Ras Al Khaimah.
“COVID-19 marked a substantial shift in the cruise industry, with the pause sending operators and brands back to the drawing board, where they created more sustainable and personalized travel experiences for 2023,” said Raki Phillips, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority.
As a result, tourism authorities in Ras Al Khaimah are working in partnership with RAK Ports on several projects to further develop the Emirate’s offering, with cruise tourism forming a major aspect to future plans.
“A rigorous revamp has seen investment in state-of-the-art facilities, including transforming Ras Al Khaimah’s old ferry terminal into an efficient and modern boutique cruise passenger terminal,” said Phillips.
“The strategy paid off in the long run, with the 2022/23 season seeing six calls by four luxury cruises such as Azamara Quest, The World (Residences at Sea) and more. For the upcoming 2023/24 season, 14 luxury cruise calls have been lined up, and we’re set to welcome 20 more during 2025-26 and more,” he added.
Ras Al Khaimah has targetted itself as a cruise destination at cruise line’s operating smaller, usually more premium and luxury cruise ships, so has missed out on the resurgent Middle East cruise sector, which has seen ever-larger cruise ships homeporting in Dubai.
This isn’t a concern to RAK cruise tourism officials though, as they’re targetting a niche gap in the cruise market.
There has been a shift in the industry reflecting emerging trends, according to Phillips.
“We’re seeing luxury travel begin to fade and be replaced by more curated, authentic experiences,” he said. “Post-pandemic, well-heeled travellers are pursuing a ‘conscious comeback’ to travel – seeking to visit places that resonate with their purpose, be it sustainable living, giving back to a local community, or being amongst nature, culture, and history.”
Additionally, a new demographic of travellers has emerged as the driving force for the cruise industry’s status as one of the fastest-growing tourism sectors and that is GenZ and Millennials.
“These younger travellers are setting new trends as they place diverse food scenes, purposeful experiences and outdoor adventures above material ‘things’.”
“But the resurgence in cruise travel isn’t only booming amongst the ‘TikTok Generation’, it’s also appealing to those seeking multi-generational travel,” he added. “Cruise destinations that offer ‘something for everyone’ are growing in demand as travellers look for multi-activity adventure vacations that allow for a more inclusive whole-family experience that caters to a diverse range of interests and needs.”