Interview: Iyad Rasbey – Ras Al Khaimah, A Go-To Destination For Weddings & Honeymoons
One of the most diverse and naturally beautiful destinations in the region, Ras Al Khaimah offers an alluring array of romantic experiences that is sure to have couples and newly-weds in high spirits and toasting to a happy future together. More recently, Ras Al Khaimah played host to the Exotic wedding planning conference of which team Bride Club ME were official media partners, experiencing first hand, the first class hospitality the Emirate has to offer.
The nature Emirate has something for everyone, from the couple who likes to strap on a pair of hiking boots and get adventurous through kayaking, ziplining, camping under the starts and water sports, to those that are looking to trawl through local souks and delve into the rich culture at one of kind attractions such as the Suwaidi Pearls Farm. Be it a relaxing approach or an all guns blazing adventure you are in search of, Ras Al Khaimah welcomes couples to enjoy their wedding events and honeymoon across its sprawling deserts, picturesque mountains, sun-kissed beaches and bustling metropolitan districts.
Today, we pick the brains of Iyad Rasbey, Executive Director, Destination Tourism Development, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority and give you the low down on why RAK should be top of mind, when considering a wedding or honeymoon.
Tell us why you decided to host the Exotic Wedding Planning Conference?
With our natural topography, world-class hospitality brands, and seamless infrastructure, it is no secret that Ras Al Khaimah is one of the most sought-after MICE destinations. Hosting the Exotic Wedding Planning Conference (EWPC) – the largest of its kind in the world – allows us to showcase the full breadth of the Emirate’s diverse range of offerings. It also provides us with the perfect platform to network and build relationships with the wedding industry’s best-of-the-best and demonstrate why Ras Al Khaimah is one of the world’s leading destinations, as highlighted in Time magazine’s World’s Greatest Places of 2022 and CNN Travel’s best destinations to visit in 2023.
Equally so, leading platforms like EWPC provide us with a crucial forum to unite the industry around shared visions and align on best practices. The destination wedding industry is experiencing a great resurgence, and the key to unlocking its full potential lies in exploring upcoming trends, collaborative business set-ups, and data-driven insights, as well as highlighting the outstanding talent and commendable initiatives in play. It has been an honour for us to host over 250 world-class wedding and event planners from more than 80 countries, and collectively commit to propelling the destination wedding industry into the future.
In your opinion, why should Ras Al Khaimah be top of mind for a Destination Wedding in the UAE?
One of the most diverse and naturally beautiful destinations in the region, Ras Al Khaimah offers an alluring array of romantic experiences that is sure to have couples and newly-weds in high spirits and toasting to a happy future together. Be it a relaxing approach or adrenaline-fuelled adventure, the nature Emirate has something for everyone – from the adventurous couple who likes hiking, kayaking, ziplining, camping under the starts and water sports, to those that are looking to trawl through local souks and delve into the rich culture at one of kind attractions such as the Suwaidi Pearls Farm.
But most notable of all are Ras Al Khaimah’s latest efforts to enable seamless, quick, and easy wedding planning. Following the UAE’s introduction of a federal law to facilitate civil weddings, we are thrilled to be the first tourism destination to announce all-new Wedding Certification Programme that will be a significant leap forward for planners from around the world looking to host spectacular celebrations in the Emirate.
The programme will provide both domestic and internationally based wedding planners with an e-learning platform that serves as a one-stop-shop to help them seamlessly facilitate all aspects of a civil marriage ceremony. Following its launch later this spring, those certified through the programme will benefit from an easy, flexible, and frictionless process to confidently navigate through all local regulations – be it obtaining necessary licenses, organising events, or gaining valuable business support from certified hotels via the portal. Planners will also gain a deeper understanding of the UAE’s civil marriage process, receive fast-tracked permits, and have access to a network of resources.
In parallel, we also introduced a series of comprehensive incentive packages for couples, wedding planners, and certified venues. These will include complimentary services, discounted rates, and airport support for charter flights, while any specialised permits will be waived off to further ease procedures.
What are your personal favourite wedding venues in Ras Al Khaimah, and why?
From beach venues to desert, cultural and mountain locations ideal for dream weddings of all shapes and sizes – there is something for everyone in Ras Al Khaimah. Some of my personal favourites include the Sonara Camp Al Wadi, where expert Experience Creators work with guests to curate bespoke wedding celebrations; the Dhayah Fort, the only hilltop fort still in existence in the UAE perfect for a truly unique celebration, and perhaps a step back in time; for the more adventurous bride and groom, Jebel Jais – the highest mountain in the UAE – is the perfect spot to say: “I do”; and finally, the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah is unmatched in terms of style and sophistication.
What about Ras Al Khaimah as a honeymoon location? What are your top recommendations of things to do for honeymooners in Ras Al Khaimah?
Newlyweds can enjoy a memorable honeymoon amidst the wildlife at The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert, or celebrate with an authentic cultural experience, set against the backdrop of the stunning natural beauty of Ras Al Khaimah’s deserts, at the Bedouin Oasis Camp.
Lastly, are there any exciting new hotels or resorts launching in Ras Al Khaimah, that engaged couples should keep an eye out for?
Our expansive hospitality offering spans over 50 properties across beachfront resorts, city-based accommodation, and mountainside hubs – each one promising an unmissable adventure. Our current portfolio stands at over 8,000 room keys across the Emirate, representing a 17% annual growth in hotel supply in 2022 – one of the highest growth rates in the UAE. Last year also saw the Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), Mövenpick, and Radisson brands enter the destination for the first time.
Owing to our proactive investment and development strategy, our pipeline is stronger than ever, with plans for an additional 6,533 keys from some of the world’s leading hotel brands – including Nobu, Marriott, Anantara, Sofitel and Wynn. We will also be diversifying our portfolio with sustainable accommodation on Jebel Jais. Earth Hotel Altitude, an eco-based pop-up hotel concept, and Saij, a Mantis Collection Mountain Lodge will provide an unforgettable mountain retreat experience with guided treks, mindful pursuits, and creative experiences. Cloud7 Camp Jebel Jais, a sustainable glamping experience, will also be joining the ranks of our eco-friendly accommodation offering.
A massive thanks to Iyad Rasbey for the insight in today’s interview! Brides, grooms, to help you find the ideal wedding venue for your wedding in Ras Al Khaimah, don’t forget, you can use our FREE venue matchmaker, the Bride Club ME concierge. Drop us a Whattsapp on +9715859BRIDE or drop us an email at [email protected]. Happy planning!