Online Forum on Best Practices of Digital Marketing for SME Travel Agents Promoting the “Real North”

Via Zoom on 25th September 2021 from 9am – 5pm

The  Tourism  Value  Chain  of  EFECS,  a  02-years  pilot  programme  conducted  in  the Northern  Province  launched  “The  Real  North”  initiative  in  September  2020  with  the intention  of  assisting  the  affected  SMEs  by  boosting  Domestic  Tourism  in  the  post pandemic era.   Line of activities carried out in terms of Training, Digital Promotions as well  as  exclusive  Content  Creations  to  promote  the  province  among  global  and  local travellers and investors.

EFECS  assisted  the  ASMET  (Association  of  Small  and  Medium  Entrepreneurs  in Tourism) to establish a central office in Vavuniya to initiate domestic tourism in North and to be expanded to the international tourists with the global recovery. Parallelly, the project  supported  to revamp  the  ASMET  website  to enhance its brand image.

Additionally, the project sponsored 25 Travel Agent members of ASMET to conduct 03 months  social  media  campaign  directed  through  their  individual  Facebook,  Instagram and   programmatic   directed   to   their   individual   brand.coms.   This   campaign   was exclusively  design  to  build  the  awareness  of  Real  North  through  the  selected  travel agents’  platforms  which  was  helped  to  keep  the  affected  travel  agents  social  media pages alive during this pandemic time. The campaign is successfully ongoing with one of the most popular creative and social media agencies, Triad Pvt Limited.

In  order  to  improve  the  knowledge  on  the  Digital  Marketing,  EFECS  organised  an online programme for selected SME travel agents for those who are in connected with Northern Tourism on 25th September 2021 from 9am – 5pm via Zoom. The programme was  conducted  by  Sri  Lanka  Institute  of  Marketing  (SLIM)  which  is  the  National Marketing Body of Sri Lanka established by the government to develop the skills of the marketing fraternity in  Sri Lanka.  There were  25 participants including 19 SME travel agents attended this forum.

The morning session was conducted by Mr. Nawoda Perera who is an award-winning digital media professional with longstanding experience in the digital industry including digital planning, strategies, social content, and agency operations. He is currently linked with  number  of  leading  global  and  local  brands  in  the  hospitality,  fintech,  banking, insurance,  and  FMCG  sectors.  He  is  currently  contributing  for  the  Digital  Marketing Promotions  of  Sri  Lanka  Tea  Board  who  is  the  no.  01  ranked  digital  spender  of  Sri Lanka.

Understanding   the   gap   of   knowledge   regarding   social   media   as   the   majority   of entrepreneurs are reluctant to invest on Digital marketing, the session was completely focused on the social media promotional mechanism, how it can be used for awareness building  and  importance  of  connecting  with  the  existing  clientele  even  during  a  time there are no active sales happening. He emphasised the importance of social media into the  sales  growth  as  well  as  their  importance  in  attracting  effective  clientele.  He explained  the  current  situation  of  Sri  Lanka’s  Digital  Landscape  while  bringing  live examples  on  digital  to  the  audience.  Ultimately  the  participants  were  able  to  gain  a better understanding on the importance of Digital Marketing as well as the methods of customer engagement with the use of social media contents effectively.

The  evening session  was  conducted  by  Mr.  Charana  Randeni  who  is  one  of  the  most experienced  Digital  trainers  with  hands  on  experience  in  Performance  Marketing, Marketing Automation, eCommerce, and Social Media Marketing. Starting from 99X, he has worked across tech, start-up building and travel trades as an expert in inbound lead generation through marketing automation and performance marketing. This session was an  interactive  session  with  more  technical  knowledge  sharing.  The  session  explained the  key  pillars  of  Digital  Marketing  Plan  providing  an  idea  on  how  to  develop  an efficient  and  effective  plan  which  is  workable  for  the  travel  industry  in  future.  It  was further explained about the top channels of Digital Advertising and how to create a solid inbound digital strategy. The discussion on Search Engine Optimisation as well as the Facebook and Instagram boosting was attracted by the audience and the trainer were able to resolve a large number of practical issues highlighted by the SMEs during this programme.

“It was a very successful event, and we learnt many insights which we could use for our future marketing efforts. The two presenters were very professional, knowledgeable and the event was very interactive and thanks for arranging such an event” said Mr. M. U. Lantra, Managing Director of Exciting Travel Holidays in a post comment.

“The workshop was very informative, and we were able to acquire valuable insights of digital  marketing  activities.  Hereby,  we  would  like  to  thank  Sri  Lanka  Institute  of Marketing  &  The  Real  North  for  organizing  the  workshop”  said  Ms.  Nethmi  Anjana, Assistant Marketing Manager of Tropical Asia Tours who attended the event.

“Thank  you  for  organizing  such  an  informative  session  which  I  really  learned  a  lot  of digital  marketing  tactics  and  depth  during  the  workshop  which  we  could  adopt  soon. Big Thank you EFECS and the moderators    for organising this timely workshop. Look forward such more forums in near future” stated Mr Sampath Mendis, Director, Deluxe Vacations Pvt Limited in a post comment.

“Firstly,  many  thanks  for  organizing  this  webinar.  As  an  SME  business  we  are  not always  able  to  outsource  these  services  and  knowing  how  to  develop,  manage  and make the most of our social media platforms by ourselves is valuable insight. The two presenters  were  very  knowledgeable  and  their  commitment  in  conducting  a  3-hour session  without  a  break  was  much  appreciated.  The  content  was  useful  for  getting  a sense of the potential of social media platforms. Understandably there was limited time to discuss detailed plans & options for DMCs specifically. We thank the whole team for the  organization  of  the  webinar”  commented  Ms.  Mutiara  Tegal,  Director,  Paradise Holidays at the end of the programme.

Ultimately the session was able to improve the knowledge on Website and social media (FB & IG) for a better promotion of Tourism and Investment. The importance of having updated  contents  and  the  practical  aspects  of  uploading  contents  into  social  media promotions  were  explained.  Similarly,  an  improved  knowledge  on  Monitoring  and Evaluation  of  Digital  activities  to  generate  better  ROIs  and  prepare  annual  digital marketing budgets for business would be able to drive these SMEs into their expected heights.

The   overall   training   and   capacity   building   programmes   under   the   EFECS   pilot programme were concluded with this programme. “It is indeed a very fruitful session on Digital  Marketing  and  the  decision  of  the  project  of  conducting  such  programme  is actually sensible. Because this would help these assisted SMEs to drive their promotions further even after the  project operations. Although, we do have very  limited funds for capacity building, Northern Province Tourism Bureau would like to continue these good practices with the assistance of the government as well as the trade” said Mr. Stanley Mascarenhas, Chairman, Northern Province Tourism Bureau after attending the overall workshop online.