Leading Sri Lanka towards technology-led inclusive tourism development

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 02:03 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Take one look around the tourism industry and its use of technology, and you’ll find yourself asking; “Why aren’t there more women involved?” With technology transforming the world so dramatically, the opportunity has never been greater. 

Technology has the potential to reset the tourism industry, to refocus enterprises and operators towards the right customers who spend more, stay longer and immerse themselves in experiences which are authentic and unique to Sri Lanka. Yet, women are discouraged from the opportunities technology in tourism can generate even though there are more women graduates in technology field than men. 

There are plenty of opportunities for the technology savvy to find gainful employment across the tourism industry. Tech skills in-demand include digital marketing, e-Commerce, social media strategy and application, and content creation. Understanding customers and communicating effectively to enhance and manage their tourism experiences is the tourism operator of the future.  

The increasingly technological focus of a modern tourism industry can be the enabler for women to apply ICT skills and manage employment in new ways that improve incomes, create employment flexibility and enjoy creative and meaningful work. 

Engaging and developing women in tech

Skills for Inclusive Growth (S4IG) has been focusing on ensuring that women are included as full partners in the technology enabled workforce. S4IG has launched a Women in Technology Program that develops and applies skills across tourism enterprises. Women are now designing e-tourism strategies that generate improved revenues for enterprises who can now work directly with customers and create unique tourism experiences for visitors coming to Polonnaruwa and the East of Sri Lanka. For S4IG, a program funded by the Australian Government’s Aid program in partnership with the Ministry of Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations, technology-led inclusive tourism development is key pillar under their flagship initiative ‘Gateway to the East’.

Women in Technology enables women participants to develop and apply skills available at the intersection between technology and tourism and work towards building capacity across tourism enterprises (tour operators, guest houses, homestays, food outlets) in using ICT to improve the performance of the business. These women are supported by innovative leaders ‘Technobrain’ and ‘Dreamspace’, through a new apprenticeship/internship program that develops skills and connects with the tourism market. Learning through doing! 

Bridging the digital divide through content marketing

S4IG believes in the power of digital technology to address some of the disparity and imbalance between men and women in the tourism industry. Despite ICT and tourism being two industries that allow women greater flexibility for a work-life balance, there is little awareness of the potential and opportunities available. The tourism industry in the Eastern Province and Polonnaruwa district rely on traditional methods of marketing, have little content and weak communication with the visitor economy. 

The potential to develop content and leverage it through digital marketing is great. S4IG is working to develop skills in content creation and content marketing as well as creating a platform to connect participants with opportunities. The skill sets include videography, virtual reality, photography, animation, product development, visitor communication and business process integration. This ensures that female participants are able to enrich their network in the industry to create a 

self-employed resource pool. 

Fostering the benefits of gender diversity 

ICT and tourism as two industries with growth potential requires a diversity of talents and perspectives. The need for female representation in not just about a call for gender equity. It is about fostering a diversity of perspectives. Diversity of ideas and innovation in thinking and problem solving leads to improved engagement with the visitor economy, generating greater productivity. For Sri Lanka this could be a sustainable competitive advantage. 

S4IG works to ensure women, particularly in the Polonnaruwa and east region, have the inspiration, education, tools and support to not have a productive career within ICT and tourism but also engage at the highest levels and advance in the travel tech business necessary to compete in the global tourism market. ‘The successful resurrection of a destination’s tourism industry depends largely on its ability to reshape the beliefs of international visitors’ Engaging visitors and leveraging Sri Lanka’s diverse and unique assets and culture requires transformed technology skills which this initiative contributes towards. 

Inspiring a new generation of women to learn ICT skills and apply these in tourism will empower female entrepreneurs to be innovative and stimulate a better tourism that generates better outcomes and prosperity for all.