At a time when destinations are being challenged to resonate with those seeking ‘a sense of place’, we at Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) are re-tooling tourism marketing. Our digital-first, integrated brand campaign #RAKCalling shows how emerging destinations can creatively work with content makers to develop a compelling multi-faceted campaign based on real time user behaviour. It not only marks the next chapter in our innovative tourism marketing efforts, but paves the way for brands to ride a new wave of digital consumption.
Insights to inform
Before we set out to capture a share of the post-pandemic wanderlust, it was imperative for us to package the campaign in a format that would best engage our emerging audience segment – a new breed of travellers fuelled by a level of digital connectivity we have never seen before. Leading content agency, Beautiful Destinations – our partners in a number of creative projects – and its founder Jeremy Jauncey captured this sentiment best with their findings around digital literacy and its importance in informing travel patterns; noting that 65 per cent of millennial and Gen Z consumers believe their digital identity is more important than their physical one. Of these, 90 per cent will book travel based on what they see on social media.
Just as Facebook “likes” once dictated our social preferences, a highly advanced and intuitive algorithm across TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube Shorts continues to shape today’s curated travels. And feeding this need for perpetual content is vertical, short-form video frames – constituting 57 per cent of all worldwide video plays last year, according to a global survey. The clear style, concise content and fast rhythm of short-form videos or vlog formats attracts users’ attention within seconds and – as Skift accurately notes – “converts travellers from lookers into bookers”. It became clear to us that for a destination of the future, the path had to be paved with the format of the future.
Armed with these insights, we crafted the #RAKCalling campaign strategy to unlock the full power of creativity, innovation, influencer power, and modern communication methods.
Developing the mechanics
Underscoring the multitude of awe-inspiring moments in the Emirate, the campaign united 16 renowned influencers from across Europe and the Middle East to evoke an emotional connection with Ras Al Khaimah and tap into the growing trend for experiential travel. We not only wanted to develop immersive content that highlighted the destination’s iconic locations from each of their personal perspectives – from pristine beaches and lush mangroves to sprawling deserts, majestic mountains, and everything in between – but also gave our viewers a sense of how our stunning destination can make them feel.
Mimicking a smartphone takeover across WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat, the campaign’s innovative formula of graphics, animations, shooting style, and vertical video format offered a never-before-seen, inclusive experience – bringing audiences straight into the action.
Our famed storytellers included Egyptian actor Sherif Fayed paragliding in a Jais Wings adventure; Saudi mountaineer Raha Moharrak experiencing the thrill of the Jebel Jais Flight; and UAE-based radio star Kris Fade rock climbing at Bear Grylls Explorers Camp. ‘Emirati batman’ Khalifa Al Ghafri, Dani Roman and Marco Fuerst glided over Jebel Jais from the Wingsuit Diving Platform, while Dany Neville hosted a DJ set soaring over Ras Al Khaimah in a thrilling hot air balloon experience. Jessica Kahawaty and Enjy Kiwan mastered the Jebel Jais mountain biking trails, as Mad Shadz conquered his fears on the Jais Sledder, the region’s longest toboggan run. Arabian Gazelles took on the picturesque mountain roads and hairpin bends, and finally, German model and reality television star Fiona Erdmann soaked in the view from 1484 by Puro, the highest restaurant in the UAE.
Through highly curated content and communications, the campaign brought together 7M+ followers. Total audience reach spanned 2.76M people and 20.8M+ unique reach across 5 markets, garnering 25.95M digital video views. But the metric we’re most proud of, is the unique identity that has been formed for Ras Al Khaimah – one that will resonate with a more diverse and younger audience.
Looking ahead to 2023 and beyond
While it’s evident that short-form video is here to stay, the campaign proves that a new era of digital consumption will drive destination marketing efforts in 2023 and beyond. Destinations need to step up their creativity and adjust their mindset to new mediums in three bold ways.
Firstly, never underestimate the power of a good story. As communications professionals, storytelling is in our DNA; it is the key to keeping users engaged. Secondly, build trust with micro-influencers that reflect the accessibility of a destination. While we’d all like to partner with A-list celebrities and content creators, the key is long-term collaborations that seamlessly align the right content creators to the destination ethos. This will also ensure budget efficiencies. And lastly, prioritise personalisation. Regional market preferences and nuances have become more distinct. For example, Gen Zs are unique in their ambitions and online user behaviours. Destinations must seek to localise their content and messaging, driven by an intimate understanding of core audiences.
Ultimately, the biggest learning that will shape Ras Al Khaimah’s destination marketing and virtual presence for years to come is simple: capture real stories from real people.
By Alka Winter, Vice President, Destination Marketing & Communications, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority