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Tourism and tech

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Thursday, 14 December 2017 00:00

Holidays are made on the internet. It is now standard practice for people to use online information, experience sharing and evaluations to decide where they want to travel and shape their decision making, which means that a country’s presence online has become incredibly important. However, Sri Lanka with its long delayed online destination campaign and limited exposure on social media, needs to evolve fast to be accessible to online travelers.     

The world’s largest travel site TripAdvisor says the number of people searching for Sri Lankan content had increased 12% globally and has called on all stakeholders to take pride in the country and share their experiences to inspire more visitors.

The growth is not a new phenomenon but its expansion is important as Sri Lanka looks to upgrade the quality of its tourism, improve branding and connect it with sustainable growth. Sri Lanka is still largely considered to be an undiscovered gem but this could have limited impact unless the experience, safety, infrastructure and other elements of tourism are developed to match expectations. 

This means keeping the stories authentic, building products that is true to the DNA of Sri Lankans, enhancing products that were sustainable for all stakeholders and engaging the local community for destination development. The trend of more passionate local travellers discovering Sri Lanka and sharing those stories really helps to drive global interest, even among locals the desire to find new places and experiences is growing and this can be linked with international interest. This could actually offset Sri Lanka’s struggle to get its digital promotional campaign off the ground for years, as sharing stories and experiences could partially bridge the gap of not having an organized Government-backed destination marketing campaign.

Sri Lankan travel operators have to be active in cyberspace, particularly making sure that their products were bookable online and through mobile devices. Another aspect is insights such as global trends and sharing those with the industry for a holistic approach to inspire travellers. It is also important to have a process that makes holiday planning easier for the traveler. For example countries such as Japan have one stop Facebook pages and websites where travelers can make bookings at different price points, this level of coordination gives countries an edge. 

Another aspect that is often overlooked is the power of smart phones. In a world that is dominated by tech tourism service providers have numerous creative ways to increase their visibility and access. Cities have launched apps to help travelers find their way and restaurants, flea markets, bars, galleries and hotels have cashed in by creating quirky ways to get attention. From desserts that wow on Instragram to discovering historical sites, social media gives visibility to destinations on an unprecedented level. Social media is all the more useful because it also gives reviews that are an essential tool of experience planning. 

While all this is important it is also necessary for Sri Lanka to get its wider political and economic policy working. The drawn out railway strike, for example, has also hit the tourism industry badly as travelers found they had to switch to more expensive modes of transport. Transforming online visibility to tangible returns still requires getting the basics right.

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