From Marketing to HR: What changes should tourism make?
By Sameera Jayathilaka
Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world and contributes heavily to Sri Lanka’s GDP. The industry is currently facing its worst crisis ever. With the Government now planning to reopen Sri Lanka for tourists soon, here are a few strategies to overcome post-Covid industry challenges under different areas.
Marketing and promotions
Tourists who have a higher purchasing capacity could be the target market as they can afford to hire a vehicle and separate rooms or villas during their stay in Sri Lanka, rather than the backpackers who use public transportation and share rooms. This will be an advantage for the tourism industry since they can earn high income from just a few tourists, which will be helpful to maintain the social distance of the customers as well.
Furthermore, tourists may prefer cruise ships for their transportation needs, as a cruise has more space for social distancing than airplanes. Even the airfare might increase since the cost of PCR tests and the number of passengers might reduce due to social distancing rules. Sri Lanka is surrounded by a crystal blue clear ocean; this is a very good opportunity for policymakers and the industry marketing professionals to focus on cruise travellers.
Promotional campaigns could be launched by focusing on less affected countries by Covid-19 as it would minimise the probability of spreading the virus locally from tourists. Therefore, countries like Germany and New Zealand can be targeted initially for healthy trade. Also, the Chinese market would be attractive for Sri Lanka in the future as many countries at present are putting restrictions on and refusing Chinese people and their products due to the fact that Covid-19 was originated in China.
The traditional way of greeting one another saying “Ayubowan” is becoming popular rather than hugging and shaking hands. This can be used as a cultural strategy to promote Sri Lanka as this is a unique Sri Lankan way of greeting. Buddhism has become more popular as a philosophy among the world community and Sri Lankan can get the advantage as a country with the majority of Buddhists. This can further be promoted with wellness tourism concepts such as yoga and Ayurveda.
Accommodation is a key area to be considered in tourism, and therefore there are a number of factors to be considered relevant to the post-Covid environment. There will be a greater demand for separate rooms or villas since guests will be more concerned about social distancing. In order to reduce the connection between front office employees and tourists, the management could focus on online documentation and payments.
Also, rather than having a common pool, they can have private pools or separate their existing pools into mini pools using temporary partitions without allowing the water to mix with the other sections of the pool. Even the beaches can be partitioned with removable partitions to keep social distancing (Figure 2). Furthermore, air conditioners could be purified from time to time with air sanitisers, and common area air conditioners could be kept switched off or alternative solutions can be used as air conditioners can spread the virus. And linen such as curtains could be changed and sanitised on a guest-to-guest basis.
Food and beverages
When it comes to food and beverage, the buffet might have less demand as many people are gathering around the same time. Therefore, hotels can have a limited number of participants for the buffet by allocating different time slots for different rooms or they can focus more on room service. Additionally, this will reduce the cost and minimise food wastage.
Outdoor buffet and catering can be promoted as there is enough space for social distancing. Tables can be partitioned by allowing guests to eat keeping the social distance. Tourists might be more interested in having high-temperature food and drinks since it is believed that the virus cannot survive in high temperature. Most importantly, the virus-free restaurant concept can be introduced by practising the health guidelines.
Demand for meat may reduce in future and alternative foods can be offered; vegetarian and organic foods might be in demand. Furthermore, this situation can be utilised to promote Sri Lankan-made products to grab market opportunities. Sri Lankan black tea can be promoted as it is believed by some to prevent Covid-19 (or rather boost the immune system). Also, Sri Lankan king coconut wine can be promoted as an alternative to foreign wines.
Sri Lanka can promote and organise more outdoor events and increase the number of small events rather than larger events with more participants, which will be helpful in keeping with social distancing. Some countries have started large outdoor events by utilising large grounds and car parks for entertainment activities.
Transportation is another important area, since tourists will have to maintain the social distance while travelling. They might prefer a cruise over air fights, as mentioned above. Furthermore, the number of passengers could be limited as per the capacity of each vehicle and type of vehicle. This could give more preference to private transport by discouraging public transport for tourists.
Economists predict that millions of people might lose their jobs in the tourism industry. However, some new positions can be created related to the same industries related to health and safety, sanitary labourers, drivers, etc. Therefore, employers can redesign the existing employees’ jobs and give them a new designation with a new job role without depriving them of their jobs. It is the management’s responsibility to train its employees well to face post-Covid-19 challenges, such as by training tour guides and drivers. Introduce new safety uniforms and invest in safety and infrastructure, such as introducing sterilisation chambers.
If measures such as these are adopted by Sri Lanka’s hospitality and leisure sectors, there could be hope for a resurgence of tourism post Covid.
(The writer is the Marketing Manager of Maga Neguma Road Construction Equipment Company [Pvt.] Ltd.)