The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) has announced that it will be heading to the Middle East for its annual conference, to be held from November 22-25.

The association's chairman, Derek Moore, said: “For 2018 we wanted to steer a middle path. In 2016 our conference was built around the world-famous icon that is Petra; in 2017 we headed for the Alentejo, a little-known region of Portugal. Both conference destinations proved highly successful, so for 2018 we debated whether the conference should be held somewhere iconic or somewhere unknown. Instead, we have chosen to offer a Tale of the Unexpected.

“The United Arab Emirates (UAE) comprises seven Emirates of which the most familiar are, arguably, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Just 45 minutes’ drive from the bustle of Dubai International Airport lies the unexpected – and less well-known - surprise that is Ras Al Khaimah, or RAK, as it is referred to locally.

“Like many Gulf States, Ras Al Khaimah features year-long sunshine, inviting white-sand beaches and spectacular terracotta desert landscapes. However, in contrast to the fast pace and bright lights of its neighbours, this northern-most Emirate offers a more laid-back vibe, fewer high-rise developments, the highest mountains in the UAE, and a variety of exciting activities, along with a history and culture spanning 7,000 years.

“We’re thrilled to have been invited by the Ras Al Khaimah Tourist Development Authority (RAK TDA). It is particularly exciting for AITO members to visit such a fascinating destination that is on the cusp of change in terms of tourism. We are also pleased to be flying with Emirates to the conference – its vast network of airports in the UK will make travel to Ras Al Khaimah so convenient for our members who are spread across the country.”

Delegates will fly in to Dubai and transfer to their accommodation in the centre of Ras Al Khaimah, choosing either the five-star Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort & Spa overlooking the beach, or the recently-remodelled four-star Hilton Garden Inn – also the setting for the conference – which is slightly closer to the town and offers views across the inland waterway.

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