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In conversation with Raki Phillips

As CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, Phillips speaks to us about his journey, his personal favourites and his vision for the emirate's leading adventure and nature destination.

"As the fastest-growing destination in the Middle East, Ras Al Khaimah is such an exciting place to be right now," says Raki Phillips, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA). Since taking the helm in 2019 – a role that he still refers to as his dream job – Phillips has overseen the emirate's evolution into a must-visit destination for adventure and nature seekers in the region.

"When the call came to take over as CEO of RAKTDA in 2019, I dropped everything." As he reflects on his journey, he says that he was drawn to the UAE in the most unusual way. "Sometime in the late '90s and early 2000s, I saw a giant Emirates Airline billboard on the Manhattan Flatiron Building in New York promoting a hotel in Dubai. I knew then and there that the UAE was where I wanted to be."

However, at that time, Phillips didn't know he wanted a career in hospitality. "When I was a freshman in college, my father suggested that I pursue a trade like becoming a mechanic. A close friend of mine, now a doctor, said that my personality seemed well-suited for the hotel business and encouraged me to tell my father about it. So when I spoke to my father, he presented me with two options, Orlando or Las Vegas, as they were considered the best locations for the industry at that time. Taking a leap of faith, I flipped a coin and landed in Orlando. From there, my journey began."

Phillips elaborates, "Through a university programme, I was awarded an internship at Universal Studios in Florida, which evolved into a seven-year career. When my boss asked me about my professional aspirations, I expressed a desire to move to the UAE. He said that there was nothing in the UAE but there was an opportunity in Osaka, Japan, which I declined. Instead, I joined a hotel in Orlando and that's how I landed my first international post in Doha."

From then on, there was no looking back and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, leading the burgeoning destination of Ras Al Khaimah, Phillips is focused on transforming the emirate into a destination of the future. His goals include boosting tourism’s contribution to the economy from five per cent to one-third and attracting over 3.5 million annual visitors to the destination by 2030.

"Ras Al Khaimah is blessed with breathtaking natural beauty and diverse topography – from the majestic Hajar mountains to pristine beaches and rolling terracotta desert dunes. We took these elements and built a unique and diverse tourism sector that blends outdoor adventure with relaxation and cultural exploration. It’s therefore the perfect spot for nature lovers and adrenaline seekers with loads of things to do and explore."

From Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest peak, to Jais Adventure Park, which serves as the gateway to a multitude of attractions, including the Jais Flight (the world’s longest zipline), Jais Sky Tour (a course of six ziplines in the clouds) and the Jais Sledder (the region’s longest toboggan ride), Ras Al Khaimah offers something for everyone. Visitors can also enjoy serene desert experiences and cultural encounters that delve into the emirate’s rich traditions and history. Moreover, with its scenic coastline dotted with pristine beaches framed by crystal-clear waters and the majestic Hajar mountains, Ras Al Khaimah is the perfect retreat.

Sharing insights into new and upcoming developments, Phillips highlights, "We have just launched the Via Ferrata, a new rock-climbing experience and mountaineering routes, and will unveil Jais Wings later this year – the region's first dedicated paragliding site. We’ve also announced a partnership with Ras Al Khaimah Transport Authority and Skyports to introduce electric air taxi services by 2027."

On a personal note, Phillips is deeply passionate about the outdoors, and with the abundance of natural gems in Ras Al Khaimah, this comes as no surprise. Recently, he joined the team at Rotana, along with COO Eddy Tannous and Rotana's Health & Fitness Ambassador Nelly Attar, for a hike to Ras Al Khaimah's Hidden Oasis.

Discussing some of his favourite outdoor activities in the emirate, Phillips says, "For me, it’s got to be the Jais Flight. It’s truly an extraordinary adventure and the perfect way to enjoy the emirate’s natural beauty. Also, for something a little out of the ordinary, head to Suwaidi Pearls – the only Arabian pearl farm in the world. Here you can enjoy a pearl farm tour and learn all about the historical and cultural journey of the region’s pearling industry. It’s truly fascinating and a great place to take the kids!"


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