Fly Into the New Way to Travel on TikTok

Author: Joe Abi Mansour

Editor: Mehr Hussain

The road to tourism destinations is paved with TikToks

Two years of limited travel opportunities and shifting priorities helped differentiate the strongest and most resilient players in the travel and tourism industry. Hospitality businesses are now competing with worthier adversaries, on a level playing field. And winning brands, that are driving disproportionate results, are the ones who understand that the very fabric of destinations has changed.

The new generation of online platforms has turned consumers into creative storytellers and avid story consumers. Products and destinations are no longer the end goal; they have morphed into enablers of self-expression, props and backdrops for personal stories.

In travel and tourism, a destination is no longer a set of claims, offerings and amenities. Today's destinations are the set of stories that are told through them. The key offering becomes the supporting character on unique journeys, where visitors and content creators are the protagonists. In this paradigm shift, travel & tourism is no longer an outside-in experience, where visitors come to consume what the destination has to offer. It has become an inside-out form of expression where visitors enrich the destination with personal stories they leave at the foot of landmarks, at the tables of restaurants, in hotel lobbies and even in airline cabins.

TikTok's algorithm, listed by MIT's Technology Review as one of the 10 Breakthrough Technologies in 2021, sifts through the ever-increasing library of content, and delivers every story to the users it's most relevant to. An athletic mom who's a business executive and enjoys baking and camping will be served content that fits all these different layers of her hyphenated personality. As she constantly pops in and out of communities and subcultures, winning brands are ones that seamlessly blend-in and play an active role within these communities.

For travel and tourism brands, this means the forest of content created by the community gets organised into unique journeys that build brand relevance at a 1-to-1 level as opposed to the 1-to many (or worse, 1-to-all) approach that's typically deployed on platforms of the previous decade. The role of hospitality businesses becomes to lean into key communities and interest groups to act as a catalyst of storytelling, but also explore new interests and subcultures that can drive relevance among completely new cohorts.

Brands that understand this new reality are reaping immeasurable benefits in both effectiveness and efficiency. For instance, it was through native creator-led content introducing their new region TROJENA, that NEOM cracked creative on TikTok, outperforming their own generic ads by 2x in terms of VTR and CPV.

Visit Saudi is another example of brands that pioneered such efforts, leveraging creators as the main creative route for their 1st and 2nd international brand campaigns, once again outperforming their generic ads by ~5x in terms of VTR6″. It's one thing to see ads telling you to visit a destination, it's another to interact with familiar faces and relevant content that natively showcase a destination and inspire you to visit it.

Visit Saudi: #IfYouVisitMe

In an effort to inspire and raise awareness around Saudi Arabia as a must-visit tourism destination among western travellers, Visit Saudi launched a TikTok-first campaign utilizing the power of creators. Potential visitors embarked on a virtual journey of the top destinations of the authentic home of Arabia, discovering Saudi’s rich culture and heritage, stunning diverse landscapes and warmth of the Saudi people.
The campaign resulted in an uplift in travel intent and brand affinity across 14 international key markets, achieving 61% ad recall and 17% visit intent in the US, while more than doubling the average watch time.
By replacing existing brand assets with a native TikTok series for the second phase of the campaign, Visit Saudi saw a 92% jump in VTR (View Through Rate).

Abu Dhabi Tourism – InAbuDhabi TikTok Page

The Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi collaborated with TikTok on an all encompassing TikTok page launch: A perfect mix of TikTok-first content, more than 15 creator collaborations, and media solutions enabling Abu Dhabi Tourism to quickly find its voice on the platform. Beyond establishing a solid organic presence, the campaign fuelled the DCT brand with 72% ad recognition (vs. 22% benchmark) and a strong brand link ratio of 51% (vs. 31% benchmark).
With a 70% share of voice in the GCC, more than 260k profile visits and a strong CPV6″ of less than 0.02$, the page launch campaign paved the way to an even bigger presence today with 384k followers.


As Expo 2020 opened its doors, the community couldn't wait to discover its wide offerings and gems. Through a collaboration with TikTok, Expo2020 released a series of fun, engaging and informative videos: From exploring pavilions and events to innovations, experiences and F&B, TikTok helped demystify the destination and unlock its greatest experiences in order to drive footfall.
The community inspiration also cascaded into a robust performance with more than 4 million website visits, 100 million 6-sec video views, and more than 9 million CTA clicks jointly playing a vital role in ticket sales and driving footfall.


TROJENA, a unique year-round mountain destination in NEOM, is an iconic, world-class destination, blending natural and developed landscapes – and offering unique human-centric experiences for residents and visitors alike. The destination will house six distinctive development districts centered around tailored experiences that blend real with virtual architectural and engineering innovations, including the region's first outdoor skiing resort.
TikTok enabled NEOM to tell the TROJENA story in the simplest yet most native way via a collaboration with key creators in UAE/KSA as they reveal TROJENA region in their own words.
The GCC campaign achieved great results with effective reach and relevance. The CPV6″ performed 4x better than our benchmarks and the VTR6″ was 3.6x the norm. It also achieved strong ad recall (KSA 11.4% UAE 10%) and awareness uplift (KSA 4.8% UAE 9.5%).

Qatar National Tourism Authority (QNTC)

QNTC wanted to immerse potential visitors into some of Doha's greatest landmarks through a choreographed dance challenge. By combining the Branded Hashtag Challenge, TopView, and ODM+ (One Day Max) solutions, the campaign got 60 million views in the UK and 59 million views in Germany, beating industry benchmarks by 1.17x and 1.56x respectively, while the community created more than 5.9k unique pieces of content.

UAE Government Media Office: #WorldsCoolestWinter

The UAE Government Media Office leveraged the viral power of the TikTok Branded Hashtag Challenge to start a movement: Top-creators started to invite visitors by showing the UAE from their own lens. It wasn't long before the community joined in and created more than 8.7k unique videos for the #WorldsCoolestWinter, adding their personal takes and fresh perspectives to the destination.

In conclusion

Looking at these success stories, it's easy to see that the appeal of destinations is no longer one story that is defined once and deployed forever. As every destination becomes many things to every customer, the plethora of stories told around it becomes an integral building block of the destination.
When these stories self-organize around the uniqueness of every visitor, they not only turn into paths that lead visitors to your destination, but also turn them into vocal advocates and storytellers along the way; allowing them to contribute to an increasingly richer, crowdsourced brand narrative.