About Alka Winter, Vice President, Destination Marketing & Communications, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority

With a demonstrated 18-year track record in strategic planning and delivery, Alka specializes in Corporate Communications, Brand & Tactical Marketing, Media Relations, Reputation Management and Stakeholder Communications.  

As Vice President, Destination Marketing & Communications for Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, Alka is tasked with elevating the profile of the northern Emirate in the UAE and ultimately driving the destination’s vision of becoming a sustainable destination by 2025 and reaching 3 million visitors annually by 2030.

A travel and hospitality expert, Alka’s career has taken her from Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel to Accor, one of the largest hotel operators worldwide. It was during her time at Accor where she was the custodian of 30 brands and oversaw a portfolio of over 350 hotels across 36 countries.

A firm advocate of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, Alka is a member of the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPS) in association with UN Women and UN Global Compact.

Alka holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from McGill University in Canada. She is the recipient of numerous awards – Middle East’s Brightest & Most Influential PR Professional from PR Week (Power Book 2020), and PR & Marketing Person of the Year and Green Hotelier of the Year from Hotelier Middle East Magazine. 

About her thoughts for the industry 

I was asked what my predictions are for the industry that I represent and truly love – Tourism.  

Let’s talk about tourism.

Tourism is the largest industry in the world.  According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), it drives $1 out $10 in overall spend.  It accounts for 1 out of 10 jobs globally.  More than 900 million tourists travelled internationally in 2022 – double the number recorded in 2021 although still 63% of pre-pandemic levels.

Never has the tourism industry been so relevant than it is today. So what does this mean for us communications professionals? And by tourism, I’m referring to the entire eco-system – hotels, aviation, attractions, tour operations and the list goes on.

In a world where algorithms dictate your consumption patterns, in a never Groundhog Day scenario, how do you stand out?  Leading creative and content agency Beautiful Destinations and its founder Jeremy Jauncey said it best recently when stating that digital literacy will inform travel patterns more so than ever.

We live in a world where 65% of millennial and Gen Z consumers believe that digital identity is more important than their physical one. 

Just let that sink in …. How much more effort is put into your digital brand versus your in-person brand? 

And of this 65%, 90% of these consumers will book travel based on what they see on social.

CNN Traveller even used this bold headline – the road to tourism destinations is paved with TikToks.

And just this past week an article from Bloomberg Business cited the White Lotus effect where 70% of Gen Z and millennial travellers are inspired to book a trip after seeing a destination on HBO and Netflix. 

So where does this lead us?  Digital first is part of the marketing vernacular but is that enough?  Should it be Digital all?  After all, what better way to laser focus on your intended audience, splice up the audience pool and invest smartly on people who actually have a propensity to travel to your destination?  This is where you can capture someone in a dreaming phase all the way down to their path to purchase.  If ever a clearer, more cleaner metric was needed in our field, regardless of the industry, this would be it.

This is certainly an area that my peers and I grapple with – to find the sweet spot that brings together the entire battery of communications tools from trade, social, PR to meta, OTAs and beyond, into a seamless tapestry.  

I think this is the year that we see us kicking out the jams, test and learn and seeing what comes out the other end.