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How can the Sri Lankan Tourism Industry take advantage of Social Media

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700 billion, 30 billion, 200 million -These are some of the staggering numbers being associated with the amount of minutes users spend  interacting, uploading and socialising on popular social media channels such as Facebook, Fickr and Youtube. The results suggest that the number is increasing at an almost astounding rate. To put these numbers into perspective – according to Social2B, 700 billion is the number of minutes people spend on Facebook every month. 35 billion is the amount of content shared on Facebook every month! 200 million is the number of Twitter users worldwide. How many of these videos, links and posts are about Sri Lanka, our hotels and our locations? Not nearly enough

700 billion, 30 billion, 200 million -These are some of the staggering numbers being associated with the amount of minutes users spend  interacting, uploading and socialising on popular social media channels such as Facebook, Fickr and Youtube. The results suggest that the number is increasing at an almost astounding rate.
To put these numbers into perspective – according to Social2B, 700 billion is the number of minutes people spend on Facebook every month. 35 billion is the amount of content shared on Facebook every month! 200 million is the number of Twitter users worldwide.
How many of these videos, links and posts are about Sri Lanka, our hotels and our locations? Not nearly enough.  Travel is the largest global eCommerce category expect for adult entertainment. How much of Sri Lanka are we “selling” on line?
The Sri Lankan tourism industry is the number three source of foreign currency generation for the country.  Yet, we have failed the leverage the largest communication channel in the globe.
According to travel companies, more than 40% of travelers visit social media channels to influence their destination selection. How many peer reviews and recommendations are we generating for Sri Lanka?
Gone are the days when attending global conferences and exhibitions to show case Sri Lanka was enough. Today the conference is happening online and as we speak. The travelers that we are targeting are online of Facebook updating statuses, uploading videos on YouTube, sharing a photograph via Twitter, checking in their location on Foursquare.
So how can the Sri Lankan tourism industry take advantage of this gold mine to attract more tourists?

700 billion, 30 billion, 200 million -These are some of the staggering numbers being associated with the amount of minutes users spend  interacting, uploading and socialising on popular social media channels such as Facebook, Fickr and Youtube. The results suggest that the number is increasing at an almost astounding rate.To put these numbers into perspective – according to Social2B, 700 billion is the number of minutes people spend on Facebook every month. 35 billion is the amount of content shared on Facebook every month! 200 million is the number of Twitter users worldwide. How many of these videos, links and posts are about Sri Lanka, our hotels and our locations? Not nearly enough.  Travel is the largest global eCommerce category expect for adult entertainment. How much of Sri Lanka are we “selling” on line? The Sri Lankan tourism industry is the number three source of foreign currency generation for the country.  Yet, we have failed the leverage the largest communication channel in the globe. According to travel companies, more than 40% of travelers visit social media channels to influence their destination selection. How many peer reviews and recommendations are we generating for Sri Lanka? Gone are the days when attending global conferences and exhibitions to show case Sri Lanka was enough. Today the conference is happening online and as we speak. The travelers that we are targeting are online of Facebook updating statuses, uploading videos on YouTube, sharing a photograph via Twitter, checking in their location on Foursquare. So how can the Sri Lankan tourism industry take advantage of this gold mine to attract more tourists?

The Steps

Before we go off and launch our next social media campaign, we need to understand exactly what tourism is. In my opinion, tourism is about selling experiences attached to a destination. Customers are always looking for value addition. So we need to create an experience that adds VALUE to the travelers’ lives and we need to get travelers to share their experiences online, thus creating a referral marketing system for Sri Lanka tourism.

The first step to launching a successful social media campaign is Education.  The tourism industry which comprises of the airlines, the hotels, the tourism board, the staff, the pubs, the restaurants, the guides, etc., all need to understand social media and the power of being “social”.

Throughout our rich heritage and history, Sri Lankans have always been perceived as warm, friendly people. This can be a direct result of being an island in South Asia and us being accustomed to invasion from foreign countries and entertaining frequent visitors from all parts of the globe. For the longest time, one of our biggest brand has been “The Sri Lankan Smile”.

This is exactly what it means to be social. Except now, we need to take that “Sri Lankan Smile” online. We need to tell our Sri Lankan story online.

advantages of tourism in sri lanka

In order to get started, we need to fully educate ourselves on the various social media channels available, which ones will be best suited, the advantages and disadvantages of each, the statistics, the dos and the don’ts.
Once we have studied the various social media channels, the types of conversations on each, then need to formulate a social media strategy which is going to be the cornerstone of the campaign.
tourist arrivals in sri lanka
In this strategy, we will have to include the social media channels that we are planning to use, the branding strategy and the Return on Investment (ROI) measurements.
The next step is the implementation; this is where we actually turn the strategy document into a reality. When implementing a social media strategy, we need to ensure that the designs for each social media channel are consistent with the branding strategy and the overall goals of the campaign and industry. For example: – Las Vegas
tourist arrivals sri lanka
When creating the channels, we need to make sure that they act as an information portal for travelers. We need to include information that they would not normally find on Wikipedia or other travel portals. There needs to be inside information on locations, videos of experiences, shopping, our history, heritage, interactive timelines of our past,etc., We need to create a rich and culturally engaging social media channel that attracts users to the site and in turn to our country. As an initial goal, we need to get people on social media platforms to start talking about Sri Lanka as a tourist destination.
As part of the implementation process, we need to integrate the social media sites into all our marketing, communications and corporate material. Websites need to carry links to social media sites, business cards need to carry links, videos need to have tickers, and billboards need to carry logos and much more. In order to go viral, we need to start promoting the social media channels that we have created.
One other key is to involve all of the hotels in the social media effort for promoting Sri Lankan tourism. Apart from having their own social media channels, they should also be encouraged to giveaway free wifi – as this will enable users to check into Foursquare from their phones – a location based communication medium. This is referral marketing at its best.
Now we have come to the most interesting part of social media – Managing the Campaign.  In order to promote the social media channels online, we need to create some buzz around them.
An example of successful and clever social media campaign to promote tourism is: –
sri lanka tourist arrivalsA few months ago, the Toronto Pearson International Airport ran a geo-social campaign encouraging visitors to check-in via Facebook places. What do the visitors get in return? Free access to the Plaza Premium Lounge. They are currently running a movie poster campaign at the airport – where guests create movie posters by dressing up and taking photographs to resemble a particular movie, in locations in and around the airport.
The key to a successful social media campaign is creativity, innovation and the right infrastructure. The Social Media campaign by Toronto Pearson Airport was only possible because all guests had access to free wifi.
Once you have started your campaign, the next steps is to monitor the progress using tools such as Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, Twitter Mentions, retweets and more.

Conclusion

Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka have shown a steady increase over the past couple of years.
tourism in sri lanka statistics
Fig 1: Tourist Arrivals in Sri Lanka from 1966 – 2010, Annual Statistics Report 2010, Sri Lanka Tourist Development Authority

With the top three arrivals coming from Western Europe, Asia and North America, these are the continents that consistently rank high on the social media usage statistics.
disadvantages of tourism in sri lanka
Fig 2: Current Facebook Users by Continent, from Social Bakers

The statistics speak for themselves, our target market is already out there sharing, posting and liking. All we need to do is get a part of this global phenomenon, is to create our channels with rich customer engaging content, and the rest will take care of itself.
For a newbies looking to gain a detailed understanding of these steps, read my article on the Six Steps to A.C.T.I.O.N
With the visa on arrival to Sri Lanka now being lifted, travelers really need to make an effort to come to Sri Lanka – which means they need to want to come to Sri Lanka badly. Therefore, we need to look at new and innovative ways of promoting Sri Lankan tourism and social media just seems to fit the bill – its free, real-time, populated and visual.
Using social media, we can create peer-recommendations for Sri Lanka tourism from visitors the world over. When people check into Foursquare, or upload a video, post a picture, like a hotel – these all generate a referral marketing system that ensure that Sri Lanka gets noticed by the tourists and that they willing to make the extra effort to visit, since it’s worth it.

If you would like to leave a comment, ask a question or arrange a one-to-one consultation contact me on logan@logannathan.com or via only of my social media channels using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus.

About Logan Nathan
Social Media Business Consultant | Internet (Web) Marketing Strategist Speaker | Trainer

Based in Sydney, Australia, Logan has been an avid & passionate social media user since the advent of Facebook. Logan runs his own workshops on the social media secrets in Australia. He has also written a number of eBooks on the same subjects (Social Media Secrets for your Business, Twitter Secrets for Your Business and Social Media Startup Guide for Business), all of which are now published and available online. Logan is also a passionate speaker on the subject of using ‘Internet and Social Media for Business’ and spoken at number of Business conferences in Australia and overseas. Logan was in Sri Lanka twice this year and conducted various executive briefing sessions and one- day workshops for business professionals.
Join me at my upcoming workshops in November in Colombo. For booking, refer http://www.socialmediaforbusiness.com.au/register-for-social-media-training/index.php