The contemporary traveler has a limitless choice of destinations and experiences all competing for their time and money. The ability to communicate a destination’s many aspects is vital when appealing to an international audience. Unfortunately, this is something that had not happened in the past. In fact, the great tragedy is that Sri Lanka has so much more to offer than just about any other location in the region. Yet no one knows anything much about the island, save for its beaches, which have been the sole focus of all previous marketing efforts.
In a bid to rectify this glaring oversight, Sri Lanka Tourism has undertaken an extensive integrated communication campaign, which showcases the island’s many diverse facets to the world. These international marketing efforts include advertising, international public relations, trade shows, special events, online marketing, and sponsorship activity. There are also ongoing efforts, in key source markets, to create awareness and demand for the Sri Lanka brand. The broader integrated campaign aims to capture the hearts, minds, and imagination of the target audience. An ambitious project by any standard, one which had never been attempted before. Since the campaign’s inception, however, extraordinary things have happened, and the world has started to notice. This, in turn, has enabled Sri Lanka to achieve top-of-mind awareness among its target audience. While also impressing international media giants, industry experts, and celebrity influencers. The initial campaign by Sri Lanka Tourism has resulted in millions of dollars’ worth of free coverage that has taken the island and its offering to a whole new audience.
“The pandemic has been a crisis of unexpected proportions and a disaster for tourism globally. Fortunately, we have been proactive and utilized the downtime to regroup and redirect our efforts, to ensure a faster road to recovery for the entire sector.” Remarked Ms. Kimarli Fernando, Chairperson, Sri Lanka Tourism. She went on to add, “Having an island brimming with exotic treasures would not count for much, if we did not show the world just how magnificent and diverse Sri Lanka really is. Of course, we have always been world-famous for our beaches. However, our latest campaign goes beyond the known and showcases a side of Sri Lanka the world has never seen before.”
The government’s quick response to the pandemic, including policy and infrastructural changes has enabled the island to stay ahead of the curb. This also helped raise the islands standing in the eyes of the world. During the course of 2021, these measures enabled Sri Lanka’s borders to remain open for a select group of travelers, who had been vaccinated and complied with all health and safety requirements. In fact, the Sri Lanka Tourism’s Visiting Blogger Program (VBP) and Visiting Journalist Program (VJP) have been even greater successes than originally imagined. Several recent campaigns included some of the world’s biggest youtube travel sensations and e-influencers. With specialized content created in Sri Lanka reaching over 2.8 million views and 937,000 views on youtube alone. These efforts have helped portray the island as one of the safest destinations for post-Covid travel. While taking viewers through the island’s impressively diverse landscape and earning the title ‘’Unforgettable Holiday Maker’.
Those responsible for the island’s recent rise to fame could hardly have hoped for better response, given the world sat up and took notice. Some of the most recent efforts included extensive coverage of the island by 23 mainstream International media publications, Travel Writers, and International Travel Influencers. This is estimated to have generated a combined reach, via social media and other online platforms, of over 72 million viewers and advocates. In just the last three months over 500 individual social media posts and online news articles have spotlighted the island. The world’s biggest media outlets have also taken notice and this year alone several leading media platforms have advocated for the island and the many wonders it has to offer. This includes illustrious media outlets such as The Guardian-UK, BBC. Travel, Travel + Leisure India, National Geographic Traveler India, Vogue Ukraine, Aeroflot Inflight Magazine Russia, Buro247 Ukraine, Harper Bazar, Onmanorama- India, USA Today, and many more. This widespread publicity across the globe has brought visitors to the island even with global travel restrictions, providing much-needed respite for a sector that has been amongst the worst affected by recent events. Thus far, there have been 22,771 visitors in October and 44,294 arrivals in November. These numbers are immensely hopeful and show early signs of recovery and optimism. What the data by itself does not reveal is a sharp increase in high-value tourists, who place an emphasis on novel experiences and have excellent long-haul potential. In fact, one of the primary aspects of the ongoing strategic communication and marketing campaign is tailoring a message that would appeal to this very lucrative segment.
These efforts also dovetail into government policy initiatives that desire to bring about a more sustainable, inclusive, and progressive tourism industry. One which moves away from generic mass-market tourism to something altogether more authentic, unique, and memorable.