RAS AL KHAIMAH // The corniche in Ras Al Khaimah is to be transformed in the next 18 months into a modern downtown complex.
The development will include shops, a souq, a play area and a coffee shop.
"It's to make it an attraction for the locals," said Khalid Motik, RAK's director of tourism. "They only have one park and we need to add more things for the locals as well as the tourists. We have four malls but we need diversity for people to do different things."
The priority, he says, is "catering for the local community in RAK", although the emirate also has ambitious tourism plans, starting with its 64-kilometre coastline.
Residents, however, would like infrastructure to be improved first. "They are talking too much," said Umm Nasser, 27. "If they want to do something, first they should fix the roads. They are just talking and they will not do anything, believe me. They talked for two years about a women's beach and do you see one?" she asked.
The development has been discussed since 2008.
Umm Nasser said she would like to see stricter enforcement of speed limits on the Qawassim Corniche road. The corniche is popular not only with families but also young people cruising in their cars.
She said a family park should include more activities and amenities, such as playgrounds for different age groups.
"This corniche, right now it's not a place for my children because the boys are playing with their cars," said Umm Nasser. "What do we have here? If you want to see cars you can come here. If boys want to see girls they come here. If girls want to see boys they come here."
Authorities want to raise tourism from 3 per cent of the economy in 2012 to between 10 and 15 per cent by 2017. The tourism authority has a target of 1.2 million tourists this year.
By the end of the year there will be five new hotels, including the Rixos and the Waldorf Astoria, with an extra 2,000 rooms.
There is an effort to train Emiratis for jobs in tourism. "The Emiratis know about the country better than anyone else," said Mr Motik.
Saif Ali, 31, an Emirati office worker, said direct work in tourism would be attractive only if it offered salaries comparable to those of government jobs in other emirates. "People care about the salary, not only the job title," said Mr Ali. "So people want to work in Abu Dhabi."
He welcomed the expansion of the Qawassim Corniche park, which overlooks the creek and mangroves. It is one of the emirate's two public parks and is popular with families.
"Before we had nothing here, only this gravel but now they've made the corniche very beautiful," said Mr Ali, who visits the corniche weekly. "I want a hotel there for the tourists. It would be good."
He would like to see restoration projects so tourists could better understand the emirate's history. "Tourists need old buildings," he said. "They don't need new buildings. They have new buildings in other places."