Discover.lk wants to give Sri Lankan tourism what it deserves

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Beaches with luxurious views. Mountains with lush greenery all around. It’s time for that much needed holiday trip. You keep picturing it in your head. You start to make plans. You ask yourself about all the things you could do. Suddenly, you’re stuck for answers and have only questions in your head. Sounds familiar? That’s where Discover.lk want to help.

No, this isn’t a travel booking site. Rather, Discover.lk sees themselves as a platform that facilitates the pre-booking stage for would-be visitors to the island paradise. Think of it as a means of connecting tourists with tour operators. A portal that sells you a destination to help you decide on a destination.

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Discover.lk aims to be the place where curious visitors can discover what our island has to offer

According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, tourist arrivals as at November 2019 read at 1,672,039, a 19.6% drop Year on Year. Two things must be taken into account here. One is the effect of the Easter Sunday tragedy. Two, arrivals have been picking up since May’s 70.8% YoY drop. The point is Sri Lanka is well on its way to regaining the crown. Platforms like Discover.lk are looking to chip in to make that happen.

Flirting with an idea

Entering the tourism sector was an idea the company flirted with for some time. One of the observations was the lack of quality in tourism industry reports. According to the Discover.lk team, these reports reflected an information gap about the industry. This varied from the travel content to the accuracy of quantitative data. One thought was to build a system that can gather enough data that would allow more accurate representation of the tourism industry in Sri Lanka. Specifically, about people looking up different travel destinations and activities in Sri Lanka.

Discover.lk | Tourism
Shashini Bhagya, the General Manager of Discover.lk.

But an idea and a possible business plan is only part of the puzzle. The other half includes bringing people together to form the team. One of the most important pieces of this puzzle is Shashini Bhagya, the General Manager of Discover.lk. She comes from 7 years of experience in the Tours sector.  With Shashini at the helm, the initiative kicked off under the name, Discover.lk. It was the first of many steps to eventually becoming THE big data company for travel in Sri Lanka.

To help you dream and plan your perfect holiday

But vacation travel isn’t as simple as looking up a travel destination and immediately booking your tickets. From the team’s perspective, the entire process can be broken down into five steps. The first is dreaming. This is where the idea pops in your head about a potentially great vacation destination. The second is planning. Here, the idea starts to come to reality. Essentially, this is the stage you conceptualize your initial holiday idea.

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There are multiple steps a tourist takes before going on vacation. Discover.lk aims to there in the dreaming and planning stages to educate its users along with the sharing stage to help them gain visibility. (Image credits: Walkers Tours)

The dreaming and planning steps are where Discover.lk aims to position itself. This is facilitated through the company’s travel blog. The purpose of this travel blog is to educate the audience about travel in Sri Lanka. But this isn’t just about the places. The blog also aims to educate prospective travellers about the different activities available when visiting the pearl of the Indian ocean.

“It’s not about making bookings. It’s about convincing people to visit Sri Lanka”

– Discover.lk team

The third step is where you make the booking. Next, is the experience stage. Finally, comes sharing. We all like sharing our personal experiences on our social media feeds. Particularly if it’s about travel. This is another aspect where Discover.lk wants to help. For example, a lot of the travel-related posts on social media revolve around visual content. Here, Discover.lk could generate relevant hashtags for this content. These hashtags could later be used to group relevant content and bring it on the platform. What ends up happening is while travellers are offered more visibility for their content, other interested parties are offered curated content that serves their inquiries.

But this only a glimpse of the ambitious journey of Discover.lk

An ambitious future

So far, the platform is only 6 months old and functions as a self-funded operation. There’s a long road ahead for the company. But Discover.lk comes with a lot of ambition. Currently, the platform is working on building the travel blog. Whether its what to do in Ella or things to know before visiting the Temple of the Tooth Relic, Discover.lk want its portal to be the answer. The idea is to serve as tourists’ go-to place for travel-related content in Sri Lanka.

Furthermore, making this effective means collaborating with other stakeholders in the industry such as the tour operators. Discover.lk team states that they are already working with a few tour operators and hopes to join hands with more in the coming future.

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There are countless tour operators and other players in the local tourism industry. As it grows, Discover.lk aims to be THE data company empowering them all (Image credits: Best of Lanka)

The biggest challenge at this stage is building brand awareness and getting the portal ranked on Google search. Technical challenges, on the other hand, the team is confident in tackling them head-on. Of course, moving forward the team is focused on expanding its visibility in the digital space. While most of the effort revolves around the content itself, Discover.lk also plans to organise awareness sessions targeting the tour operators as well.

Eventually, Discover.lk strives to be the big data company when it comes to tourism in Sri Lanka. This is where the company will serve as a database of sorts in gathering data on prospective travellers. Thereby, comes the greater ambition of catering to the travel industry as a whole. So, where does Discover.lk go from here? Needless to say, interesting times are ahead for this young startup. Here’s us wishing the team best of luck!

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