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The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority reveals new identity

Alka Winter, vice president of destination marketing and communications, explains the details behind the strategy for the rebrand for the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority.

By Sofia Serrano

The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority has revealed a new identity with a new vision and strategy to portray Ras Al Khaimah as a place ‘live the destination’,  with the aim to appeal to a more diverse and younger audience, including eco and adventure tourists. The creatives behind the campaign include Sputnik Floyd Creative, Beautiful Destinations and ASDA’A BCW to bring the whole campaign to life. Alka Winter, vice president of destination marketing and communications, explains the details behind the strategy for the destination.

Why is RAKTDA changing its vision and strategy?

Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority was established in May 2011 and during the past 10 years has experienced robust growth and development in the tourism sector. As such, the destination’s tourism strategy has been through two successive waves of brand identity.  The first was a destination look and feel that truly represented the Emirate’s balmy weather and lush environment. The logo created in 2016 paid tribute to the more cultural nature of Ras Al Khaimah with a dominant illustration of a fort. We, therefore, felt that it was time for a new visual identity and brand that articulated clearly what Ras Al Khaimah stood for in the new era of post-pandemic travel – one which would resonate with our international markets in a straightforward way.

The development of the new tourism brand did not happen in isolation.  A series of interviews and focus groups took place with community stakeholders, government entities in Ras Al Khaimah as well as our partners in key international source markets, including Russia and CIS, Germany and the United Kingdom.  We analyzed emerging travel patterns as a result of the ‘Great Reset’ and quickly realized that Ras Al Khaimah was perfectly attuned to the new era of post-pandemic travel with its natural and expansive spaces, stunning topography and mountain eco-system. The insights gleaned from these interviews and focus groups revealed the following findings:

  • Nature is our most powerful and valuable asset so we should leverage this
  • Leisure is still the main attraction to our destination and the main driver to tourism GDP
  • Adventure is an emerging source of attraction that should be incorporated more into the destination’s offer
  • Authenticity is key. The Emirate’s unique atmosphere and local community are areas to amplify further

Armed with these insights, we set three clear goals for the new brand identity. First, it had to deliver a clear brand narrative that reflected the destination. It also needed to drive a deeper awareness for Ras Al Khaimah – not only for the Emirate but also in conveying the dynamic nature of the destination and its ongoing growth and development. Lastly, we wanted to appeal to a wider and more diverse audience – those seeking to immerse themselves in our destination’s natural topography, delve into the local culture and heritage,  experience our authentic Arabian offering, and soak up our year-round sunshine.

Inspired by Ras Al Khaimah’s spectacular topography, its unique panorama and cooler summer climate, our new identity underscores the multitude of awe-inspiring moments in the UAE’s northernmost Emirate – a destination with an unrivalled appeal for those seeking ‘a sense of place’ and wanting to truly ‘live’ the destination’.

Alka Winter

Why have you decided to tap into the themes of sustainability, wellness, and adventure?

Our new identity taps into traveller requirements in this era of the new normal. As the world is emerging from one of its most challenging periods in modern history, thoughts about quality leisure time are being reshaped and redefined. Travellers are looking to go beyond the traditional holiday experience, rather seeking new, fulfilling experiences where they can immerse themselves in the destination to generate a sense of purposeful travel. The rationale behind the new brand identity was to create an emotional link between what the new traveller wants and what we as a destination, offer.

Nature is the Emirate’s most valuable asset set against a spectacular backdrop of sea, desert and mountains. These natural assets form the backbone of our key values as a destination. We are committed to conscious growth and protecting our unique environment for future generations; we are culturally conscious and aware of our rich heritage; and we are an Emirate for Explorers, both of adventure and for self-discovery, with nature’s wonders under our feet.

Wellness is a key focus for us as we also recognise that travellers are looking for experiences that better their mental health. This extends to our employees as well and as such, we have implemented a number of progressive policies to enhance wellbeing in the workplace. As a result, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority was named the happiest government entity in the Emirate and certified as a ‘Great Place to Work’ in the Middle East 2021.

But it’s important to stress that there is a lot of substance behind the identity and ultimately the vision of Ras Al Khaimah moving forward. With all our developments, we work with EarthCheck to co-create and implement sustainable practices that address key issues, preserving local history, culture and traditions. As part of this, we have invested in a three-phased restoration program at Al Jazirah Al Hamra, preserving the history of the archaeological site while making it accessible for visitors to learn first-hand accounts of the local culture.

As an extension of this new visual identity, we have also just announced a comprehensive tourism strategy that will see Ras Al Khaimah as the regional leader in sustainable tourism by 2025. Where we have broadened our approach to address all areas of sustainability ranging from cultural preservation, employee mental well-being to industry-wide protocols and carbon emission goals.

Since when is this new vision coming to life and how are you sharing this story? What media channels are you using?

We announced the new vision and strategy during this year’s Arabian Travel Market in May which formed the basis of our corporate communications strategy. But we didn’t stop there.  Realizing that we were launching in a crowded media marketplace that was being dominated by other brand campaigns from leading destinations including Jordan, Egypt, Japan and Sri Lanka, to name a few, we needed to be focused and decisive with our media strategy.   The launch concentrated both on a social media digital campaign aimed at driving awareness (reach and video views) and familiarity (consideration) for Ras Al Khaimah as a tourism destination. We were razor-focused on target audiences ranging from family vacationers, group explorers, health and wellness enthusiasts, etc.

Working with global social brand Beautiful Destinations to create our ‘hero’ destination video and various journey cuts, we managed to rotate visual content and make it more specific to traveller preferences and audiences.  The media strategy covered a range of channels from programmatic, in-feed and in-reed ads, rich media, passport and the use of metasearch and OTAs with WEGO, Yandex and Expedia.

Our new creative campaigns are focused on answering two basic questions: what kind of place it is and how will it make me feel. Through our full mix of media channels, our new creatives have been conceived to create a sense of place that can be easily perceived, understood and remembered by our target audience.

Why did you choose the ‘kashida’ from Arabic calligraphy as part of the logo?

The new visual identity inspired the ‘RAKashida’ logo, which takes from the ‘kashida’ concept in Arabic calligraphy – a line that connects letters to form a word. Just as Arabic calligraphy gracefully flows, the RAKashida (we appropriated the word Kashida and linked it with RAK) tells the story of the Emirate. The RAKashida also stands for the personalised tourism experiences that the destination offers, including a rich history, written by the hand of its ancestors.  And, just like the Kashida connects letters to form a word, the RAKashida connects different worlds – and people. Appealing to the emotions and wanderlust of visitors, the brand signature sends out a universal message to ‘Live Your Moments’ in Ras Al Khaimah.

RAKashida’s peaks and valleys represent the Emirate’s three key natural elements and core values: the sea with its perpetual swelling and subsiding, the desert with its undulating dunes, and the mountains with their staggering elevations. It also describes the journey into Ras Al Khaimah, starting by the fun coast that represents exciting activity, moving into the mystic desert that represents discovery, then onto the mountains that represent greatness and adventure – the peak of the experience.

What was critical to convey was that the RAKashida logo is a living and breathing identity which adapts and pivots to changing circumstances.  This perfectly captures the dynamism of the destination as one that reacted quickly to the onset of the pandemic and continues to do so today in a series of measures, from supporting hotels and partners with a far-reaching financial stimulus package to certifying the destination as the first Safe City in the world with Bureau Veritas and World Travel & Tourism Council. It continues to this day with the progressive policies including free return PCR testing and the recent announcement of half a billion dirhams into 20 sustainable attractions and hotels.

It is also reminiscent of a heartbeat, tying the brand identity back to not only what we can offer as a destination, but also how visiting Ras Al Khaimah will make you feel, feeding into the idea of living the moment.

What are your expectations from undertaking this campaign?

Through positioning ourselves as a destination with an unrivalled appeal for those seeking ‘a sense of place’ and wanting to truly ‘live’ the destination’, we are aiming to carve out a unique identity for the Northern Emirate – one that will resonate with a more diverse and younger audience, including eco and adventure tourists.

We also want to encourage visitors to get out of the hotel and experience more of what our wonderful Emirate has to offer, and hope to encourage visitors to return to Ras Al Khaimah time and time again to create fulfilling moments inspired by nature’s wonders.

Is this your official slogan: ‘Live Your Moments’ in Ras Al Khaimah?

‘Live Your Moments’ is part of our brand hierarchy, designed to evoke an emotional connection with the destination and tap into the growing trend for experiential travel. As with the ‘RAKashida’ logo our identity is focused on creating connections – with nature, with yourself, and with those truly memorable moments.

What are the agencies you work with?

We worked with Sputnik Floyd Creative to develop the new brand identity as well as our marketing and advertising campaigns. Beautiful Destinations created all our visuals assets, from our teaser and hero films, journey cutdowns as well as the use of their robust digital platforms to amplify the brand campaign. We also work with ASDA’A BCW for our UAE and GCC PR and Influencer Engagement.

Of course, projects like these do not happen in isolation.  It certainly takes a village and I would like to thank the team at Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, especially Raki Phillips, CEO, who brought to light the need to re-imagine tourism and our Emirate’s place within it as well as my colleague Iyad Rasbey, Executive Director, Destination Tourism Development, who helped co-create the final logo with insights on how our international markets would receive it.  And of course, my team members (Meghann Eleazar and Faisal Riaz) who worked diligently on this project from inception all the way through to last the delivery of the brand campaign.