Destination Promotion in a Digital Era

Destination promotion is vital to develop the tourism industry in a country. Digital Technology has reshaped the entire process of destination promotions.

I recently had a chance to interview a Swiss millennial couple who is travelling in Sri Lanka. The boy is passionate about Kite Surfing and the girl is going to learn Kite Surfing while in Sri Lanka and she wanted to travel to India as she likes to explore culture & heritage. They have got to know about the Kalpitiya area from a Swiss religious Television channel and then he has searched for pictures on Instagram and YouTube for videos. He has read reviews on TripAdvisor prior to confirming his visit to Sri Lanka. Apparently, during the specific time of the year is holiday for those youngsters and they usually search for their next Kitesurfing spot in the World as soon as they finished their holidays. He has been to a number of countries like that and he is expecting to have 7 days on Kitesurfing in Kalpitiya and 7 days touring around the country. He will be posting a number of pictures on Instagram and write review about hotels and places he is visiting in Sri Lanka as a help to the travellers like him. As I specifically asked him his review will definitely influence Sri Lankan visits of at least 5-10 their close friends. 

As a travel industry professional who following ongoing trends in the industry, I have come across the news items of a number of international Tourism Promotional activities done by SLTPB except for anything about online destination marketing campaigns. There are a number of destination promotional roadshows are organised, headed by the minister. The national digital marketing campaign is to keep postponing.  

A recent interview published in Financial Times with the regional head of TripAdvisor stated that how simple the campaign is needed to be. She is simply saying create stories as much as you can. Make it genuine and helpful to others. I think officials want to know, how many millions does this cost? I would say without spending a cent, Sri Lanka can start its innovative digital marketing campaign. Unfortunately, this is Sri Lanka, officials only like to see its balanced budget sheets only.

One of the eye-catching digital media campaign “Incredible India” recently launched its latest digital marketing campaign as “The Great Indian Blog Train” which is to create web contents by giving bloggers to have a luxury train ride in India. TripAdvisor Destination Marketing Head – Asia Pacific Sarah Mathews exactly proposing a similar activity from Sri Lankans too. Of course, India is on the right track.

Why can’t Sri Lanka run a Destination Marketing Campaign on digital media? According to a well-known marketing professional in the country, the committee set up to develop a Destination Marketing Strategy to Sri Lanka, none of those members has a single active social media account. All those are good at wealth accumulation, but not in the digitalised world. 

Competition of the travel & tourism industry is not on hunting of foreign agents now. It is highly digitised and destination promotion needs to be on the digital world. Millennial and post-millennial travellers highly depend on online but not on paid advertisements. The digital world is genuine and cheap quality products do not survive on it. We need to get ready for the digital era by producing some genuine products first. Unreasonable commission schemes and tourist’s traps won’t benefit at all. Probably they can cheat on Indian or Chinese large group travellers, but only until they get noticed. 

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The digitalising of the Sri Lankan Tourism need to start from the ground. There are enough professionals and private companies who can run a fabulous digital marketing campaign. One of an Indian Travel company based in Sri Lanka has handed over their website development to a local company for a high cost while they can develop it in India at least 5 times less than the price they pay to the Sri Lanka company. But the company is wise and has a long-term plan. Sri Lankan authorities who are waiting to launch its digital marketing plan need to look at those examples too. This is destination marketing and it is not merely a product, it is consists of culture, society, language at so many identities which could be understood only by Sri Lankans.

Sri Lanka is digitised enough. But it is a huge question whether the Travel & Tourism sector is digitalised enough or not. The discussion needs to be heard in a much higher voice than it is now.