Communication for tourism product promotion

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Sri Lanka Tourism declares 2022 as the ‘Visit Sri Lanka Year’ in line with the integrated five-year Global Communication Campaign (GCC), aiming to attract six million tourists and US $10 billion revenue by 2025. Though the existing economic crisis and political instability of the country creates some negative notion over the target, it seems effective communication with the right parties at the right time has a potential in changing the destiny of Sri Lanka Tourism which faced misery over and over again since the Easter Sunday attack in 2019.

Sri Lanka Tourism will also stand a chance with digital communication when looking at mounting numbers of global users of worldwide digital platforms.

Why communication for tourism?

Communication is the most important and most used skill in the hospitality and tourism industry. Destination Management Companies and hospitality sector managers spend the largest portion of their time in verbal or written communications with employees or outside parties. Other staff members communicate among themselves, as well as their managers, front-line employees, suppliers, and so on; to give and receive the information they need to perform their jobs. Besides, other stakeholders in the industry, as in restaurants, guides, travel agents, tour operators, souvenir shops, drivers etc. need proper communication skills with guests (local or foreign), and should be trained for effective communication skills to sustain the industry.

Opportunity in tourism job market

There lies a vast opportunity in the tourism job market for those who are good in communication for destination promotions. Thus, communication in the industry leads towards the accomplishment of several sustainable goals of the 2030 Global Sustainable Agenda, as in equal job opportunities, no poverty, decent work and economic growth etc.

Further, in general terms communication is required to communicate about attractions, to introduce new products and to create awareness among tourists on must-needed information of a destination which is required for a guest to travel safely and securely. Thus, effective communication is a trending marketing tool for destination promotions.

On the other hand, it is said the present generation is keen on content communication when they plan their tours; hence, communication is being requested by the tourists themselves to be aware on certain destinations and its attractions. The research reveals among these generations, Millennial and the Generation Z are tech savvy who largely depend on digital content when choosing their next destination to travel. Further, they are keen on the concepts of sustainability, renewable energy, equal capital distribution, gender equality etc. As Millennial and Gen Z travellers become more conscious of their travel footprint, they are seeking greener destinations. The TUI Group, the largest leisure, travel and tourism company in the world with its own travel agencies, hotels, airlines, retail shops and cruise ships, reported an 84 per cent increase in the number of its clients choosing ‘greener and fairer’ holiday packages between 2015 and 2020.

Thus, to ensure a destination following these concepts of sustainability communication is vital.

There are many ways marketing specialists work in the tourism sector. At the beginning of large-scale tourism in the ‘60s, the situation seemed very simple, because the desire to travel after the stabilisation of World War II was high. Due to changes in the technical, social and economic sphere, the situation has changed radically. Not only had the number of tourists but also tourist destinations increased. This situation has changed a lot in the last few years when new destinations appeared, that is why for many traditional large scale tourist destinations, the goal of attracting new visitors is more and more difficult. The reasons leading to this fact are different, sometimes the destination has just reached the point of stagnation in the tourism lifecycle and does not know how to face new challenges and grow up or it is just a victim of turbulent social and political changes in selected areas. One of the solutions to the problems mentioned above could be the use of the most appropriate tool of modern marketing communication, for instance some strategy like content marketing.

Potential of e-communication for tourism

Social media offers destination management organisations with a tool to reach a global audience with limited resources. On the other hand, today, tourism connectivity with social media is inseparable. More travellers are sharing their travel experience through social media channels, which contributes to a higher usage of technology and has become a frequent part of our daily lives.

A research done by Accenture, an Irish Information Technology Company reveals, social media shopping or social media commerce is expected to reach US $1.2 trillion globally by 2025.  And Gen Z and Millennials are predicted to be the biggest spenders, as they will account for 62 per cent of global social e-commerce revenue by 2025.

Further, TikTok has been identified as the top-earning non-game app in 2021 with more than US $110 million spent by users by the Digital Marketing Institute headquartered in Australia. Last year (2021) YouTube’s global revenue (through its parent company Alphabet) grew to nearly USD 29 billion, up almost 46 per cent from 2020. Hence the potential of e –communication for destination marketing is quite evident.

Besides, the current pandemic situation enhances the use of technology. For destination information gathering, to purchase air tickets, accommodations and tourist attraction tickets, to know the reviews of accommodation facilities, tourists’ attractions of a country; digital platforms such as in trip advisor, Booking.com, Agoda, Air bnb and social media platforms play a significant role.

According to a research done by Statista, a German company specialising in market and consumer data, as for the mostly used social media platforms by January this year (2022),  facebook ranks on the top with 2,910 million users, whereas YouTube ranks second with 2,562 million users, Whats app  third in raw with 2000 million users and Instagram  fourth in raw with 1,478 million users, justifying social media communication is a key strategy for destination promotion.

Video marketing also dominates the content marketing industry today. YouTube, the pioneer video sharing platform and the second largest search engine, experienced a 4.9 per cent growth rate in 2021 according to SEMrush statistics. In 2022, the number of YouTube viewers is expected to hit 210 million in the US alone. According to Statista 2022, over 2.6 billion people worldwide use YouTube once a month and India has the most YouTube users in 2022, estimated at 467 million. YouTube’s global advertising revenues in 2021 were estimated to be around US $ 28.84 billion.

India seems to be ranked first with most of the social media platforms as at January this year; India is the largest facebook user in the world with 329.65 million users, it is the same with YouTube with 467 million users; Instagram with 230.25 million users. India being among the top three source markets in Sri Lanka Tourism every year, country’s destination promotional campaigns, targeting the Indian market should consider the said social media platforms for destination promotions.

Some successful digital com. initiatives in Sri Lanka Last year (2021), Sri Lanka Tourism initiated the concept of ‘Go on a Couch Safari’; a live streaming of local wildlife parks. The initiative was followed by guests around the world and received an overwhelming response with a reach of 350,000 out of which at least 40 per cent were international viewers. Wildlife at Yala, Minneriya, Kaudulla and Uda Walawe attracted thousands of viewers with the live streaming concept of ‘stay home today and travel tomorrow’. The campaign was launched on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. Direct display advertising campaigns were carried out using Google Display Network and Trip Advisor. Couch Safari was advertised using both video and display advertisements on key travel, wildlife, destination websites and YouTube Channels. Overall, the campaign generated over 22 million impressions, over 1.7 million video views and generated over 40,000 clicks.

Live streaming of the Kandy Esala Perahera in 2021 conducted by Sri Lanka Tourism also gained much popularity.

Communication-related tourism job opportunities

The concept of sustainable tourism ensures viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders, stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities and contributing to poverty alleviation. Accordingly, communication in tourism leads to several economic benefits by providing job opportunities as well, such as in content writing/editing, video making/editing, Social Media specialists, photography etc.

Further, this sector will produce dedicated and successful employees to the industry, as those with a passion and skill for writing, video making and photography only will join the industry.

The writer is a former Business Journalist attached to Ceylon Today, a Visiting Lecturer at University of Kelaniya, University of Colombo, SLIIT, SLF, a freelance writer and a Sworn Translator. (Has a B.A & M.A in Linguistics from the University of Kelaniya, and a Postgraduate Degree in Tourism from the University of Colombo).

By Anjali Caldera