A surge in its tourism industry and the robust growth of its industrial sector has led the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) in the United Arab Emirates, to post GDP growth of 8% in 2012. In an interview with fDi Magazine, Peter Fort, the newly appointed CEO of RAK Free Trade Zone (FTZ), said the emirate's growth is double that of the whole UAE, which grew by 4% in the year. 

The decision by the US-based luxury hotelier Waldorf Astoria to locate its first hotel in the Middle East in RAK significantly boosted the emirate's international appeal, enabling it to attract 1 million tourists last year, according to Mr Fort. “In 2012, [RAK] passed the 1 million visitor mark for the first time ever, and it accomplished this goal a full month earlier than was anticipated, in November,” he said. “The hotel room inventory increased tremendously with the opening of the Waldorf Astoria hotel, and [RAK’s] economy has been really driven by growth in the industrial sector as well.”

Advertisement

The former head of mergers, acquisitions and restructuring for the Middle East and north Africa at US-based investment bank JPMorgan, Peter Fort was appointed in May this year as the CEO of RAK FTZ. He said that the RAK government’s efforts to develop its links with investors in Asia will be significant in powering RAK’s ongoing growth. “Although [RAK] historically focused on south Asia, as a large percentage of companies registered in RAK FTZ are from India, there will be a real push into east Asia,” said Mr Fort.

Greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets shows that between 2003 and 2013, India was the largest investor in RAK, accounting for 15 greenfield projects. Mr Fort said that RAK FTZ has also begun seeking opportunities in South Korea. “We took part in the UAE-Korea trade conference and there is a tremendous amount of interest [among South Korean officials] in growing their investments in the UAE and in RAK. There are currently just 20 Korean companies [in RAK] and that represents a very large and untapped market, which I am going to focus on.”

Offering competitive aftercare services and expanding RAK FTZ’s warehouse, storage and office capacities will feature as top priorities for the new CEO, who said that RAK FTZ will be managed “as a business”, rather than a government department. Although RAK fared well in attracting investors from the US and Germany – the second and third most prolific investors in the emirate according to fDi Markets – Mr Fort said that he is keen to expand RAK FTZ’s reach to clients from the Middle East and Africa.

“We have a large spectrum of clients who are finding RAK FTZ to be an excellent base for tapping into emerging economies in the Middle East, for example, in Iraq, where there is tremendous investments in the oil and gas infrastructure,” said Mr Fort. “Also our proximity to places such as Kenya and Tanzania in Africa is a tremendous advantage. We are already getting a lot of traction and we have got big plans for the future.”