Comment: Face the future with cautious optimism

Published: 19 April 2020 - 2 a.m.

We are living in unprecedented times as the coronavirus pandemic spreads globally. All of us are having to adjust to changes in our daily routines and adhere to government restrictions, which exist for the wider good. We must support the authorities, for as long as the crisis lasts, and our thoughts are with all those affected.

Clearly economic issues are secondary to public health, but they are vitally important nonetheless. We are very fortunate to live in the UAE, where the government recently approved an additional support package, raising the Central Bank stimulus to AED256 billion, to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak across the country, supporting all industries. We are also especially grateful for the tireless support of His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, and the support extended towards industries in the Emirate.

Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) just announced a range of far reaching support initiatives, aimed at its hospitality, leisure and development partners in light of the emirate’s ‘ONE RAK’ commitment to transparency, ease of doing business and global community spirit. These measures aim to protect employees of the tourism and industry, support partners and business owners who share our goal of promoting the destination and ensure that all parties are well prepared for the recovery phase.

At this time, developers in Ras Al Khaimah have also taken it upon themselves to support the community where possible, in tandem with the government initiatives, including three-months rental relief and deferral of fees. It is inspiring to see how we are very much ‘in this together’, to quote that well-used phrase, and we will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.

Across public and private sector, it is imperative we work together and not only protect the assets we have spent years developing, but ensure we are properly prepared for when we emerge from the crisis. I am proud of the raft of measures we are introducing from the middle of April will help on both fronts – to provide revenues for businesses struggling now and security to plan for future growth.

Firstly, we have established an internal RAKTDA Stimulus Committee and Steering Stimulus Committee (SSC), to serve local stakeholders and help them avail of various packages from all levels of government. The SSC comprises five leading CEOs and decision makers and will address Emirate-wide economic concerns. A comprehensive contingency plan was shared with all business partners and stakeholders mapping out short- to mid-term solutions to mitigate the negative impact of coronavirus on travel to Ras Al Khaimah. The four-step road to recovery places initial focus on the domestic market, followed by the GCC and wider Middle East, to then be extended to Asia and Europe.

Our Financial Incentive Package is open to non-government owned entities covering budget, midscale and four-star hotels as well as attractions, golf courses and tourism attractions. Specific measures of the wider tourism support initiatives include six-month waiver of all touristic licenses; waiver of tourism dirhams from March to May; 100% waiver of tourism licensing fees for Q2/Q3 and tourism licensing fines until September 30; and participating fees for exhibitions and roadshows for 2020/21 dropped.

Through stakeholders and operators working cohesively within the industry, it is beneficial to introduce such measures where possible, to allow us to face the future with cautious optimism. Of course, it is important to recognise that stimulus measures aren’t a panacea, and that transparency in our communications is key to overcome these challenges and make us stronger when the crisis ends.

It is our obligation to unite and work together towards a resolution, reflect on best practices and try and prepare for ‘the new normal’.

Remember the travel and tourism sector has consistently outgrown the global GDP growth rate in recent years, and we should be ready for when planes and hotels are full once again.

About the author
As CEO of RAKTDA, Raki Phillips plays a pivotal role in implementing and creating initiatives that will boost the emirate’s tourism sector.

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