Skift Take

It's understandable that Sri Lanka wants arrivals to return to pre-Easter bombing levels soonest. The challenge is knowing what measures are needed, amid the sense of urgency that can cloud the mind.

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.

— Raini Hamdi, Skift Asia Editor, [email protected], @RainiHamdi

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.

Booking Holdings Makes Good on Resort-Fee Commission Charges: That on-again, off-again Booking Holdings introduction of charging hotels commissions on their resort fees or other extra charges is quietly under way — in Asia and elsewhere outside the U.S.

New Philippine Airlines President Will Battle Budget Carriers’ Agility: No doubt Philippine Airlines’ call centers will be more cost-efficient and friendly, given its new president’s extensive background on this. But it will take more than that to beat those agile low-cost carriers.

Top Tech Exec at Traveloka Instrumental in New Wave of Growth Dies: Grief hits Traveloka as a key member of the leadership team passes away, just as the company is looking to raise new funding.

The newly renovated Raffles Hotel Singapore. Photo: Accor

U.S.-China Trade War Hurts Accor But It Won’t Deter Asia Expansion: The hotel group remains confident the international conflict will pass, as it commits resources to expanding in Asia.

MakeMyTrip Grows Despite Turbulence in India’s Airline Sector: The past year has been a horror show for India’s aviation sector. So MakeMyTrip deserves kudos for continuing to grow its air ticketing and overall sales despite the upheaval. But executives deserve criticism for the company’s relentless unprofitability.

Cox & Kings’ Struggles Force Closure of UK Travel Group: Things look to have deteriorated rapidly at Cox & Kings. Can it now raise enough money to stop itself from going out of business?

Asia Editor Raini Hamdi [[email protected]] curates the Skift Asia Weekly newsletter. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday.

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Tags: accor,, cox and kings, makemytrip, Philippine Airlines, skift asia weekly, sri lanka, Traveloka

Photo credit: Jetwing Yala, Sri Lanka. The island nation is asking online travel agencies to slash commissions to help boost tourism as part of recovery in the wake of Easter terror attacks. Jetwing Hotels

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