Hilton downplay impact of RAK Airways suspension
Hotel group denies loss of direct flights will affect visitors
Hilton Worldwide, which operates seven hotels in the UAE emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, has denied that the recent suspension of RAK airways will have any significantly impact on its guests.
RAK Airways suddenly suspended flights with immediate effect on January 2, citing increased operating costs and regional instability. It had served 12 destinations across the Middle East using a fleet of two Airbus A320-200 aircraft and carried 300,000 passengers in 2012.
Hilton Worldwide Ras Al Khaimah country manager Mohab Ghali said few guests at his hotels, which dominate the emirate’s accommodation sector, used the airline but he hoped new transport options would become available.
“Though the majority of our guests travel via Dubai International Airport, we are hopeful that local airports and airlines will continue to do what is best for their business and RAK and continue to attract regional and global travellers,” he said.
The hotel group was joined by the body in charge of developing tourism in Ras Al Khaimah, which also played down the impact of the loss of direct flights to the emirate.
RAK Tourism Development Authority CEO Steve Rice said the loss of direct flights would have little impact on the emirate’s improving tourism industry, which grew by 150 percent more than the global average growth rate in 2013.
“Whilst the suspension of RAK Airways is not ideal we do not think it will impact significantly on the strong growth we have seen,” Rice told Arabian Business.
“RAK Airways did not service Ras Al Khaimah’s key feeder markets and the majority of inbound tourism to Ras Al Khaimah comes through Dubai International Airport and Sharjah International Airport, both approximately 45 minutes drive from Ras Al Khaimah.
“Our main concern at the moment is to assist any visitors to RAK that have been affected by the closure. RAK Airways is providing refunds or alternative transport arrangements for all customers affected and Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority is working closely with the airline."
As recently as August, RAK airways had said it was aiming to increase its routes to 40 by 2015.
RAK Airways also suspended flights for two years in 2009 following the economic crisis.
It had operated out of RAK International Airport, which also serves charter operators and was to undergo an upgrade. No announcement has been made on whether those plans will be affected.