TBC Asia highlights scope to boost tourism via blogging

Wednesday, 19 November 2014 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Senashia Ekanayake Held for the first time in Asia, the Travel Bloggers Conference successfully concluded in Colombo yesterday, aiming to spur tourism and business via the new and fast growing medium of authentic communication and marketing. The conference preceded a tour around the country to popular tourist destinations such as Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Kandy and the southern coast that took place from 14-18 November. Fifty bloggers from world over were taken on a tour organised by Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts in partnership with SriLankan Airlines and in collaboration with the Professional Travel Bloggers Association. The conference itself saw the participation of three very important stakeholders in the tourism industry – travel bloggers, traditional media and officials in the sector such as hoteliers and regulatory bodies. In total around 250 people attended the conference which operated in two simultaneous tracks. One track was dedicated for the travel bloggers where topics relevant to developing their respective blogs were discussed and the other catered to the hospitality and travel industry professionals in Sri Lanka. The industry participants were also offered a unique opportunity to network one-on-one with all the bloggers through a speed networking session at the end of the conference. Among the elite group of speakers at the conference key representatives of Google South Asia, TripAdvisor, Times of London, Four GB PR, Revinate and TravelClick were present together with the professional travel bloggers and digital marketing experts. Delivering the keynote, BBC Travel Editor Allison Busacca said: “It’s not always that travel writers get to collaborate with all stakeholders at the same time, in the same place. TBC Asia has in fact provided this platform and for the first time we could start trying to recapture the essence of travel and celebrate people, culture and places.” The official airline for the event was SriLankan Airlines and addressing the opening ceremony was Chairman Nishantha Wickremasinghe, who said: “This conference has helped portray Sri Lanka beyond the typical beach holiday resort destination. It is important to reinvent a communication strategy to uplift the tourism sector and with travel blogging this has become the most effective medium to do so.” The pre-tour conference was the first-of-its-kind organised in the history of the Travel Bloggers Conference and John Keells Group Deputy Chairman Ajit Gunewardene stated that the tour had resulted in approximately 3,000 tweets so far with a three million reach and 14 million impression across social media networks that has become possible through the immense following each of these bloggers bring with them to the table with them. “I hope this conference will give you a greater understanding on how to use these tools effectively in order to create synergies across the Sri Lankan travel and tourism industry,” Gunewardene added. Stressing on the importance of immersive storytelling, Dave and Debrah Corbeil of Planet D, highlighted the importance of involving readers along with a story that is personal to the bloggers. With a specific focus on adventure couple travel, through their writing and videos, they have been successfully able to convey that adventure is doable and most importantly that anyone can do it. Most travel bloggers attending the conference also pointed out that it isn’t necessarily about how often a post or video is published but more on how effective its reach is to a larger audience. They went on to say that each blogger caters to specific audiences and therefore, it is important to first identify audience demographics and work around what works best for them as well. Following the ceremonial opening the conference proceeded on a two track basis one focusing on bloggers and the other targeted at industry participants. Bloggers segment had a Travel Bloggers Town Hall moderated by Craig Martin and discussed topics such as Importance of SEO and PPC for Travel Bloggers – Google Industry Manager Kurram Jamali, Ethical concerns in blogging by travel journalist of the UK Times and Sunday Times-fame Steve Keenan, BBC Travel Editor Allison Busaca and Professional Travel Bloggers Association (PTBA) President Craig Martin in the panel; Advanced Google analytics for bloggers by Distilled Senior Consultant David Sottymano, Advise to bloggers from industry by FourGB PR Associate Director Sara Whines and Advanced, actionable SEO advise for travel bloggers by Sottymano. The industry segment kicked off with a panel discussion on Effective use of travel blogging highlighting four case studies related to hotels, destinations, airlines and DMCs. This session featured travel blogger Kate Mcculley, Founding Editor of Monkeys and Mountains Laurel Robbins and Sara Whines and was moderated by PTBA. Thereafter the industry segment focused on how to find and work with travel bloggers with a presentation by PTBA’s Laurence Norah and Elizabeth Carlson. Dave & Deb- Planet D    The aspect of video blogging in collaboration with brands and DMOs was addressed by Steve Hanisch, blogging couple Tawny Clarke and Christopher Staudinger. Google UK and India Hotels Industry Manager Karthik Venkat spoke of optimising search engine to maximise visibility and the importance of SEO and PPCs in the new age. Sri Lanka’s eMarketing Eye CEO Rajith Dahanayake made a presentation on blogging for better SEO optimisation at the industry segment whilst Travel Click eCommerce Vice President Jerome Wise shared some insights on how to get the web strategy right and TripAdvisor Destination Marketing Senior Sales Manager Sarah Mathews spoke of the impact of blogging for businesses. Revinate Director Strategic Operations Yones Hammoumi dealt with driving sales through reputation management and effective use of digital marketing. The first-ever Travel Bloggers Conference Asia concluded with a wrap-up panel discussion featuring Sarah Mathews of TripAdvisor, Sara Whines of FourGB PR, PTBA’s Craig Martin and Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts’ Dileep Mudadeniya. The session was moderated by Daily FT Editor Nisthar Cassim. Pix by Lasantha Kumara