This is what it must have been like around these parts during the glorious boom days:
Luxury hotel! 450 apartments!
A yacht club!
A soccer stadium that opens up to the sea! Real Madrid Resort Island!
I can’t tell you how much it warmed my heart to see the project’s promotional video, which was unveiled this week. This was everyday stuff back during the boom years from 2006 to 2008 but by the time I moved here in December of that year, the party was ending, the layoff notices at the ready for issuance.
But apparently, we’re back to dreaming big. The emirate of Ras al Khaimah and the Real Madrid soccer team have decided to go into the real estate business together. No one said it explicitly, but I’m pretty sure that this will be the world’s first soccer theme park. I know you’re ready to book that flight for opening day at Real Madrid Resort in January 2015. (I love that the video says “public opening.” No doubt there will be lots of VIP festivities in the months beforehand.)
Wait … what are you asking? Oh, right: Where is Ras al Khaimah?
Home to about 300,000 people, the most northern of all the U.A.E.’s seven emirates is, well, perhaps one of the Middle East’s undiscovered tourism gems. It’s definitely off the beaten path, about an hour’s drive from Dubai. It is not the place you expect to be home to a mega-resort.
I’m fairly certain the emirate currently does not have the water/sewer and electric capacity needed for such a development. Don’t get me wrong. Its remoteness, its lack of the trying-too-hard branded clubs and pretentious wannabes is why I like RAK. I was just speaking to some friends about how nice it is to go out there and spend some time in what seems a more “real” place.
I really don’t begrudge them wanting to boost economic development. But is the flashy, high-profile name project the way to go? No doubt the price points on all of these entertainments will be along the lines of “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” It just seems like this sort of thing has already been done: Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, the Armani Hotel in Dubai.
The uncritical news reports on the announcement didn’t go into the financials of this deal: how much did Real Madrid get paid for use of their name? What are the terms and length of the partnership? Any provisions in the contract to protect the brand of both entities? The promotional video did point to unsourced numbers of travelers in couple of selected radii and it was a large number. But who isin that group? Business travelers, tourists? Would they all be serious contenders for RAK tourism? Does it matter that Real Madrid couldn’t have sold one of these in its own home country of Spain?
The Real Madrid feasibility study seems to have been written under the influence of Easy Money Kool-Aid, circa 2008.