25 June 2019
The 21st of April 2019 marked a dark day in Sri Lanka’s history as the Easter day bombings rocked the country and caused the tragic loss of lives. The days that followed saw the nation thrown into turmoil which had both a human and economic impact.
The tourist industry understandably took a massive hit as countries issued travel advisory warnings to citizens planning to travel to Sri Lanka. Tourist arrivals dropped drastically followed by the mass cancellation of bookings and tours. But as in the past, this small island in the Indian Ocean was resilient as ever and is slowly turning things around. It is in this environment that digital marketers can look to forge ahead with strategies to encourage both local and international travellers to truly experience Sri Lanka once again.
Tourism is Sri Lanka’s third largest export economy while 80-90% of tourists have been known to travel to the island on “leisure/holiday”. The island started the year on a positive note after being ranked as world’s #1 travel destination for 2019 by Lonely Planet.
As a result of the Easter attacks, tourists’ arrivals to Sri Lanka decreased by over 50%. Travelers were on the look for alternative tourist destinations with the travel bans and warnings imposed by their nations. Hotels also started to experience a high number of room cancellations across both online and offline channels. Hotel brand websites recorded a massive drop in visitors & revenue and year on year more than 50% decrease in online booking revenue was evident.
Interestingly, right after the attacks, there were more and more searches happening in Google for “Sri Lanka” as the whole world was keeping tabs on what was happening. During this time period, we can see that there is a spike in Sri Lanka related search terms.
Hotels were quick to introduce Credit Card offers & Flash Sale Offers during this period. These appealing discounts helped to attract more local bookings. As a result, we saw an increase in local bookings as more families, friends & individuals started booking these discounted offers.
Analyze your web analytics platform to see what’s happening on your website in terms of visitors, bookings, revenue, etc. Compare the bookings and revenue on the brand site with OTAs. Base your short-term marketing strategies on the performance of your website (ex: whether to do paid marketing campaigns, which markets to target, etc). At the same time focus on improving the site, keyword rankings and continue to conduct Offsite SEO activities.
Make sure you have informative content for travellers while highlighting positive experiences and messages about Sri Lanka and sharing ‘User Generated Content (UGC)’ to regain trust and confidence of your audience. Avoid aggressively pushing offers and promotions and only talking about the current situation.
While some countries still have travel bans to Sri Lanka, focus on attracting the local market by introducing enticing offers exclusively for locals. Promote day packages, dining offers, etc and conduct email marketing/sponsored ads to promote offers. Ensure rates offered online are on par with offline rates offered to locals.
Promote experiences on Social Media (YouTube Videos, UGC Content, etc), while promoting travel safety & security. Communicate positivity about Sri Lanka and its unique places to visit. Maintaining your own destination website/blog will be a great platform to share positive content and messages to your targeted audience.
70% of the brand revenue is generated by 20% of the customers who are visiting your website for the second time. Make sure you have an advance remarketing/retargeting strategy across multiple platforms where you to bring the visitors back into the website.
Article by eMarketingEye; an award-winning digital marketing agency specializing in the hospitality industry. Established in 2007, the agency has gained international recognition for its expertise in providing 360-degree digital marketing solutions. With over 1,000 successful client engagements, over 4,500 web projects and over 200 award wins during the past 12 years, eMarketingEye is widely considered to be a thought leader in Asia.