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Myths in tourism marketing

Tourism universities and institutions produce hundreds of marketing professionals into the markets and industries and they enter the business arena brimming with new concepts, strategies, ideas, and tactics to turn things around to generate results overnight. Their bosses eagerly await monthly P and L accounts thereafter.

Then the magic wand first hits the visible confusion arising over entanglement in differently interpreted managerial and marketing terms from vision, mission, objectives, strategies, tactics, communications, promotions and branding colourfully appearing on screen which sometimes tend to push aside a real need for a particular action, activity or even a direction that may go begging for immediate attention.

Training session organized by the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau in Kandy.

The macro-environment is so uncertain, unpredictable and uncontrollable. Tourism organizations can face difficulties when areas that are not within their control hamper their plans. Not being geared or prepared for elements emanating from unmanageable areas may force organizations to halt or drop their plans that have no chance of being pursued.

Often, the reason is the over enthusiasm without giving much thought to operational hazards that should also be given due consideration at preliminary discussions. It is always necessary to review why plans have not proceeded as discussed.

Many middle managers initially fail to comprehend the cultures of various organizations whether they are private or State, that are often governed by the individualistic thinking of their superiors in spite of detailed discussions on short and long term plans discussed from time to time for collective decisions. Eventually, the subordinates become cogs in the wheel and simply do ' what they are asked to do' to avoid the wrath from the top.

At a time many countries are striving to come out of the recession (some are succeeding while others are not so lucky), experts keep hammering on the need to increase marketing activities, do things out of the box, and exploit opportunities in the vacuum caused by competitors' inaction. However many complain that marketing also increases cost and not the ROI.

Others argue that doing any marketing at all, is better than doing nothing, marketing must be smart enough to create a substantial ROI, or otherwise it is said to be just a way to camouflage the act of throwing thousand dollar bills out of the window. This raises the question the extent to which tourism marketing is driven by rational and personal preferences.

In tourism, advertising and promotions are expected to create awareness and interest among the target audience or target market. When they do not trigger direct business deals, the stakeholders begin to question the correlation between the promotions and the generation of business.

Marketing emphasizes educating the target market through advertising, direct marketing, Internet marketing, events, public relations, or networking. The surge that Sri Lanka expected soon after the war was really seen in statistics so far but travellers have many other options with the recession hitting their long haul travel. Is there anything else to be done other than all the marketing gimmicks that are known and widely practised today?

Will lower prices encourage more people to travel to Sri Lanka?. This is argued both ways. The upscale traveller with adequate disposable income would not mind as long as he or she realizes the expectations promised through promotional efforts. The answer lies in the value of the product to the visitor and not exactly the price. For others, Sri Lanka is yet to offer the night life, entertainment etc as our neighbours do.

Can too many options confuse the travellers?. The diversity in compactness, just as much as a strength to any country, can pose a difficult task for marketeers when allocating resources based on product market strategies where the focus tends to get diluted. Do the research studies precisely reveal exactly which product, is to be targeted at which market and at any given time. This is doubtful in a vast environment when every country is striving to have a reasonable share from their markets.

Many DMCs and tour operators are experts in their ideas and promotional approaches but their creativity sometimes goes waste when the sale is dependent upon a middleman who acts as their agent overseas. These agents have many countries in their catalogues and what Sri Lanka can offer in terms of value is not truly reflected through a few pictures and prices.

e marketing is said to be successful only if it is done purposefully. Most emails are considered spam and deleted at first sight by receivers. The e marketers say 'lots of email reach people who are not interested in what you have to offer hence considered.

In the eagerness to use internet marketing for all businesses today prospective customers should not be underestimated. But marketeers often refer to "integrated marketing" plans because it is the integration of many different types of activities that drive visitors to a web site.

Consistency is said to be tourism marketing's best friend provided the product fulfils the promise. With the development of infrastructure, Sri Lanka is expected to move away from the numbers game into more value based tourism such as eco, spiritual, cultural and heritage tourism, as it is unlikely that Sri Lanka's culture will ever warrant Sri Lanka Tourism to be on par with her neighbours in terms of entertainment, night life, etc. The vision of tourism being discussed at various fora should take these realities into account.

Partnerships and alliances are extremely important for tourism marketing.

At least policy makers tend to believe so, when they question why all sectors that deal with overseas markets cannot join hands with tourism and go along together for synergistic efforts and results.

The BOI, the EDB, the Tea Board and Foreign Missions were mentioned as partners. For instance, ' Ceylon Tea' is carrying a very high level of awareness throughout the world, a brand that Sri Lanka was gifted with for decades.


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