Ras Al Khaimah, the UAE’s emergent cruise port on the Arabian Gulf, is targetting smaller, niche cruise lines as it seeks to tap into a new luxury cruise travel segment that prioritises curated, authentic experiences in the cruise destinations visited.
Raki Phillips, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), wrote in an advertorial for Arabian Business, that Ras Al Khaimah is working on several projects to further develop the Emirate’s offering for the cruise industry.
These include a rigorous revamp that 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.
“More than just your run-of-the-mill holiday, a cruise combines all the ingredients for adventure with the comforts of home,” he said, adding that the cruise sector is one of the most significant contributors to the post-pandemic travel recovery, with a projected 10.4 percent growth from 2022 to 2031.
“That said, 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 personalised travel experiences for 2023,” he added.
During the 2022/23 cruise season, four luxury cruise ships made six cruise calls in Ras Al Khaimah, these included Azamara Quest, the residence cruise ship The World (operated by Residences at Sea) and Seabourn Encore.
Cruise calls for the coming 2023/24 season are expected to more than double with 14 port calls scheduled, growing to 20 during 2025/26 season.
“Today’s luxury sea tour segment epitomises a paradigm shift reflecting several emerging trends,” explains Phillips. “We’re seeing luxury travel begin to fade and be replaced by more curated, authentic experiences.”
“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,” he added.
This shift is being driven by the younger GenZ and Millennial generations as they begin to take more luxury cruises rather than mainstream ones aboard the big mega cruise ships.
According to Phillips there younger passengers in the luxury segment are the most enthusiastic about planning an international voyage, and are setting new trends as they place diverse food scenes, purposeful experiences and outdoor adventures above material ‘things’ available aboard the larger cruise ships.
Phillips added that these passengers are also seeking multi-generational travel.
“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 for a diverse range of interests and needs,” he said.