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Tarte, Dubai and the Return of the Opulent Influencer Trip

Are extravagant brand influencer trips back? Tarte's viral mid-January Dubai excursion seems to indicate so — and public reaction is mixed. 

Picture this: beauty YouTuber Desi Perkins has just uploaded a video titled “Turks & Caicos”; in the background, Krys Talk’s “Fly Away” warbles over a montage of turquoise-blue waters, palm trees and sandy beaches.

It’s 2015, and Tarte Cosmetics is hosting its first influencer trip.

Upon arrival, Perkins is greeted with the necessities: a hot hand towel, a mixed drink and the beaming face of fellow makeup phenom Katy DeGroot. Drinks in hand, the pair gleefully cheers their fellow mega-influencer-girls-trippers in keen anticipation of all that comes next: fancy dinners, luxury motorboat rides, apparently more than a few laughter-and-handholding-filled group walks along the beach (obviously) and complimentary, hot pink unicorn onesies laid out on their beds next to their complimentary Tarte products.

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The #TrippinWithTarte era had begun and since then, the makeup brand has been among many that have taken influencers to a number of exotic locations, including Bora Bora, Costa Rica and Hawaii as a means of building brand awareness and, hopefully, sales.

After a pandemic pause, these brand getaways — which dominated social media in the 2010s, particularly in the beauty and fashion spheres — seem to be making a comeback in full force, as evidenced by Tarte’s ongoing Dubai influencer trip in mid-January, which has all but sent the internet into pandemonium.

The trip brought together 50 beauty and lifestyle influencers, 12 of whom were flown out from the U.S. and include TikTok heavy hitters Alix Earle, Monet McMichael, Meredith Duxbury, Xandra Pohl and twin-fluencers Aisha and Azra Mian, who sparked buzz when they began posting videos that they were packing to head to Dubai with Tarte.

All attendees were invited to bring plus-ones (many, including Earle, brought along their mothers), were flown first class on Emirates and stayed in opulent villas at the Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach. Since their arrival the attendees have showcased their antics on social media, which have included but are not limited to: dune buggying, camel rides and complimentary appointments with Tarte’s own makeup artists. (Despite mass speculation that the influencers would be attending the hotly anticipated Beyoncé concert on Jumeirah Island, they will not be there, confirmed a Tarte spokesperson).

Monet McMichael and the Mian Twins in Dubai with Tarte.
Influencers Monet McMichael and the Mian Twins in Dubai with Tarte. @miantwins on TikTok

The trip has blown up on TikTok, with many content creators expressing opinions on everything from how much the trip cost, to who paid for it, to whether it’s appropriate during an economic downturn to flaunt such excess. Interest peaked so much that, as of Friday, TikTok videos tagged with #TarteDubai have garnered more than 10 million views, while #TrippinWithTarte stands at 82.6 million views on the platform.

In an exclusive statement emailed to WWD, founder and chief executive officer of Tarte Maureen Kelly said: “These trips give us an opportunity to share our passion for the brand and give back in an intimate setting. We don’t pay any content creators to attend and they’re not required to do anything while they’re there. We love the chance to build up connections and communities together!”

In particular, WWD understands the purpose of the trip, which is in conjunction with Sephora Middle East, was to unveil Tarte’s biggest launch of the year: the Maracuja Juicy Glow Foundation, the latest in the TikTok-viral Maracuja collection. The foundation will be offered in 22 shades and be available beginning next month. WWD reached out to Sephora for comment.

The beauty influencer trips have paid off for Tarte in the past, although data is not yet available for this current sojourn. The brand’s March 2018 trip to Bora Bora in celebration of its then-new Mermaid Collection helped propel the brand to a total of $60.4 million in earned media value for the month, according to data from Tribe Dynamics.

In March 2022, the brand inaugurated its first post-pandemic influencer trip: a comparatively pared-down getaway to Key Largo, Florida, that hosted a crowd similar to this week’s Dubai trip. The trip brought in $510,200 in EMV through anticipatory content in February alone through the hashtag #TrippinWithTarte and another $562,400 in EMV through the same hashtag in March.

That trip appeared to mark a change in Tarte’s strategy in terms of which content creators the brand taps for such trips, shifting more toward TikTok personalities rather than Instagram and YouTube influencers.

Another pivot many social media users were quick to point out was how much younger the average age of this trip’s attendees was in comparison to those in attendance at similar trips by the brand in years past.

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For example, Earle, who has 3.9 million TikTok followers, is 22 years old; Duxbury and McMichael, who have 16.7 million and 2.6 million followers, respectively, are both 23 years old, and Christine Abraham, who has 837,000 followers, is 25 years old.

Earle, in particular, whose name was hashtagged 545.8 million times on TikTok as of Friday, has become known for her beauty recommendations, sparking industry talk of “the Alix Earlie effect,” on offerings such as Drunk Elephant’s D-Bronzi Anti-Polution Sunshine Drops, Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Cream — and Tarte Shape Tape Concealer.

(She’s also been at the center of some controversy, as with a video of hers about a hair oil from Mielle Organics, a Black-founded textured hair care brand, that was met with some negative reaction from viewers who feared that the item, popular among Black women, might sell out due to Earle’s praise.)

Regardless, the chatter hasn’t seemed to deter Earle who, like her fellow creators, has been posting copiously from her luxury desert digs. And while it’s too soon to measure the impact of this trip with official data points, if the reaction on TikTok is anything to go by, Tarte can expect some sweet engagement numbers indeed.