Tourism boom in Sri Lanka, mobile and Foursquare

Thursday, 5 July 2012 00:44 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


With the end of the civil war, Sri Lanka is now experiencing a higher growth in the number of tourist arrivals, despite the much anticipated crisis in its economy currently, along with many infrastructure developments taking place to better the country’s standard.

According to the latest statistics from the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, tourist arrivals in the country recorded during March 2012 have soared by 21.3 per cent compared to that of 2011, and exceeded over 260, 000 from January to March end this year. In March alone, there have been 91,100 tourists visiting the country.

Further, the Tourism Board is expecting around 950,000 tourist arrivals by the end of 2012, with projected revenues exceeding $ 1 billion, a figure that is 20 per cent higher than the $ 830.3 million that was recorded last year.

Trapped with the traditional

Sri Lankan marketers are still trapped in traditional mediums, spending vast amounts on their advertising or marketing communications budgets but it’s time now to slowly shift gears and enter a whole new game – in today’s world, it is about using multiple platforms to get your message out there.

You got to fish where the fish are, your customer – and with the evolving social media grabbing their time and thirst, they are actually spending time on Foursquare, the much-discussed location-based service, checking out for offers, deals and reviews.

As many sources state globally, the hospitality sector is heavily benefitting from the emerging online platforms and of course social networks. More than ever, travellers are surfing the web space and placing their purchasing decision making based on the contents on those platforms.

Getting on board with Foursquare

Foursquare is a social network focused on connecting users and allowing them to broadcast their locations using mobile devices such as the iPhone, Blackberry phones, Android phones, and any other WAP-accessible phones simply by logging into With Sri Lanka’s mobile penetration reaching the 100% mark, this is a tool that you can never miss.

Foursquare is especially unique and attractive because it allows marketers to tie programs to a physical point of sale activities – could you imagine that this will ever come true? Marketers were struggling once how come we get the physical world out there onto these networks?

Yes – we have reached it – congratulations to all those who are in the location-based services sphere – especially Foursquare, which is seriously gaining attention at the moment and becoming hotter and hotter every day.

To bring you some of the latest happenings from Foursquare’s #4SqDay 2012, the location based network is making plans to roll our ad units to their recently-announced 20 million users. Further, the platform has 750,000 businesses already using it.

Foursquare may not be a perfect match for every type of business, but it certainly seems to be working increasingly for the hospitality sector – restaurants, bars, hotels, cafes, fast food and just about any brick-and-mortar store selling physical merchandise can claim their profile and start offering specials to mobile broadband users.

How to leverage on Foursquare: Claiming a venue

Before dipping yourself into a Foursquare campaign, you might want to see if your business is even listed and how active users are engaging with it. The first step is to jump on the network and claim your venue.

Then, find out how many check-ins and unique check-ins your business has received over the past months. If you have multiple locations (if you have many branches out there in Sri Lanka), find out who your top mayors are and how many check-ins they have made.


Once your venture is on Foursquare, try making some specials. As marketers, it is important that we think and creatively formulate offers and customer-oriented strategies that will drive in a loyal crowd. This is where ‘specials’ come into play where you can reward single check-ins or reward repeat visits by giving them discounts, gifts, etc. So this becomes a digital loyalty program. Here are few of the specials you could try out:

The Newbie Special is where you can create an offer for those who are new to your venture or the place. The Flash special is where you can create impromptu offers for the first 5 or 10 people who check-in to your venture with Foursquare. The Swarm special is where you can create offers for prospects and customers who come in a large number and check into your venture place on Foursquare.

The Friends Special is where you can create offers to a bunch of group who check in regularly to your venture. The Loyalty Special is where you use it for loyalty in which the person who checked-in to your venture or place the most number of times out of others in other words the ‘Mayor’ of the place can receive unique offers, exclusive discounts, and so on.


This is probably the most valuable tool – the so-called ‘Foursquare Perspectives’ tool – that lets you have access to a full-fledged comprehensive dashboard giving you not only useful insights on your users but also provides you with demographic information on the people who are checking-in.


Several brands have jumped on the Foursquare bandwagon and have run programs featuring branded custom badges, unique check-in tips and custom landing pages featuring lists of to-do items, mainly targeting their local markets that are closer to the physical location.

With Sri Lanka’s tourism boom and mobile penetration hiking up to reach nearly 100% of the population, Foursquare is a perfect tool to be leveraged upon.

(The writer is a marketer and visionary strategist, also acclaimed as the world’s youngest member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK. Tweet him on @thanzyl or email [email protected])

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