At what point does a destination struck by disaster ask online travel agencies to cut commissions when bookings aren’t at normal levels? Or resort to offering free tourism visas when the country could use the revenue to boost safety and security?
Sri Lanka is the latest study of a destination’s crisis recovery. Ten years after a civil war ended, tourism has risen as a key engine of the nation’s economy, providing jobs for thousands of youths from rural areas including the northern and eastern parts of the island.
No wonder the country wants to rebuild the arrivals number as quickly as possible, as reported in our article below. In the context of protecting livelihoods, the need to devise strategies to attract specific markets is a luxury. Warm bodies must fill empty beds, and anybody will do.
But in this numbers game, some measures may be better than others. Rather than waste time negotiating with online travel agencies to reduce their commissions, Sri Lanka is better off working with data-driven companies to boost bookings. Rather than lose much-needed revenues from visa fees, the island nation is better off looking at how visa fee revenues are allocated and fight tooth and nail on bigger allocations for tourist safety and security, and tourism marketing budgets.
Contrary to the general view that visa relaxation equals more arrivals, the efficacy depends on different factors. Thailand extended a waiver of its visa-on-arrival fee of $65 for tourists from 21 countries to April 30, yet arrivals barely increased in the first quarter of the year over the same period last year, while those in China — a key target market of the policy — declined. Morocco, on the other hand, abolished visas entirely for Chinese visitors in 2016 from what was previously a cumbersome visa application process. That move, coupled with Chinese travelers’ mood for more exotic countries than an of-the-moment Thailand, saw the China market to Morocco growing many times over, as our article reported.
So an early takeaway from Sri Lanka’s crisis-recovery efforts is that when it comes down to it, the view that every little bit helps is a fallacy.
Rather, doing what counts matters.
Skift Stories and More Expert Insights
Sri Lanka Boldly Asks Online Travel Agencies to Cut Commissions to Help Revive Tourism: Of the several measures to bring arrivals back to pre-Easter bombing levels, a tireless Sri Lanka is asking online travel agencies to slash commissions. It might be better to ask them instead to do a free or at-cost campaign to drive bookings to the country.
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Asia Editor Raini Hamdi [email@example.com] curates the Skift Asia Weekly newsletter. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday.