The digital shift – 77% of travellers make decisions with online data, says SLTPB Chief Dr. Athukorala at National Technology Conferenc
Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Rohantha Athukorala
“In the backdrop of the Sri Lankan economy being challenged with balance of payment issues due to export growth being flat and the managed float of the currency pegging at Rs. 140 per dollar that is threatening the inflation spiral due to higher import bill, we in the private sector must support the country at this stage of the economy by understanding the changing trends globally and influencing policy,” said Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau Chairman Dr. Rohantha Athukorala at the National Information Technology conference at Galadari hotel amidst a gathering of 350 top industry professionals.
“On the tourism front, the latest data from Google indicates that Sri Lanka has been searched by 23 million on travel related reasons in the last year but only a 1.5 million have turned to bookings. The gap between awareness to conversions is an opportunity that Sri Lanka Tourism is working on with marketing different strategies so that we can achieve the $3 billion revenue target which beats the Sri Lankan tea revenue of $1.6 billion. This is the importance of the tourism industry in Sri Lanka’s economy,” voiced Athukorala.
The speaker argued that the forward march into the digital age, especially in the key sectors of aviation, tourism and travel, any organisation that does not equip oneself with the correct skill sets and new technologies will get challenged for survival. The real life case he cited was the incident where the world’s number one company Apple, which has a policy of paying a musician only after three months of release of an album but top singer Taylor Swift who had a Instagram following of 45.5 million viewers asking Apple to change course. “That is the power of digital media,” voiced Athukorala.
“We as a nation must target $50 billion dollar export set by the government by equipping ourselves with cutting edge technology, being tech savvy and with the know how to use the latest tools available to them to make waves across cyberspace,” he said. The speaker explained how in the key tourism market of UK, 77% of the travellers make decision on travellers using digital media with TripAdvisor being the highest influencer followed by online websites, National Geographic online and it was at number five that traditional media came into play in the consumer decision making process.
Athukorala announced that at end August 2015 Sri Lanka Tourism has registered a growth of 17.1% on visitor arrivals almost touching a 1.2 million guests but the problem was that the average revenue earned by Sri Lanka was a low $160 dollars. “We must move to attracting a $250 tourist if we are to make this industry the key investment driver of new Sri Lanka,” he said.
“Let’s together focus on topics like e-reputation and social networks, how to improve its image through the online reputation, the importance of the internet and social networks these days in the world of tourism, virtual reality, augmented reality and digital publishing, click research, understanding the best practices of virtual reality and tourist interest in this technology, connected territory, data and customer connections, how best to collect data and how to exploit them for maximum customer relationship, territory and connected collaborative tourism before tourism development based on the exchange and sharing of information and what are local SEO techniques to target a local customers and passages, just to name a few,” commented Athukorala. “Sri Lanka Tourism has already invited the top seven global advertising agencies to recommend the new positioning of Sri Lanka tourism as a destination in the fast changing global market place which Sri Lanka has not had any presence for almost six years and then once this is in place we will call for proposals on media buying/digital space activations supported by a holistic PR drive with the key global PR agencies. We have to make this industry be a $15 billion in revenue to support the Government agenda of $50 billion export economy,” said Athukorala.