Apologies for silence on the blog over the last few months. I have been far too busy exploring parts of the world and meeting some extremely friendly and interesting people. This is the one chance I have had to write and I am currently on an overnight sleeper train to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, Thailand.
SriLanka was the first destination I stopped at en route to Sydney from the UK and as well as it being a beautiful country, it was interesting to witness development taking place rapidly as the country prepares for more tourism after the war, ending in 2008.
I stayed in various places around SriLanka including Colombo, Galle, Ella, Mirissa Beach, the cultural capital of Kandy, Polonnaruwa and the famous fishing village that appeared on Rick Stein’s documentary, Negombo. Combining friendly homestays and family run guest houses there were plenty of options when it came to selecting accommodation. I soon started to notice TripAdvisor signs outside a selection of hostels and guest houses, along with lonely planet recommendations above handpicked restaurants which obviously made them stand out. Every time I stayed in a place for a couple of nights, TripAdvisor was mentioned in conversation by the proprietor and the excitement of positive reviews became apparent. This made me think about the importance of social media in a country encouraging more tourism.
Mahesh – Whale and Dolphin Tours
Mirissa beach was a great place to visit for typical beach life and amazingly good value seafood in the evening – straight from the ocean and onto the plate! Whilst staying here, I ventured out on a boat over the rough Indian Ocean to spot dolphins and whales in their natural habitat. The tours were starting to become very popular from Marissa beach as local fishermen had reported sightings of Killer whales, Great whales and Bryde whales which made this an exciting trip for travellers.
There was no guarantee that you would see anything on these trips but we were lucky enough to see dolphins, whales and a cheeky sea turtle. As both organised tourist boats and private boats were leaving from the same destination, competition for sales between ticket touts became obvious. This is when I got talking to Mahesh, who looked after our accommodation and booked us onto the tour. He was very keen to show me his Facebook fan page and seemed highly excited when I said I would write a review and upload my video of the dolphins to share with others. Mahesh was also in the early stages of creating a website to advertise the tours and it was great to see how enthusiastic about the plans he was.
Video of the beautiful Dolphins
Negombo- New Villa Looking For Exposure
The Villa Kapuru was a little more luxurious and slightly more expensive than previous rooms I had stayed in but because it was the last stop before a flight to Bangkok , a little relaxation was needed. The villa offered a boutique experience with authentic personal décor in each one of the 12 rooms, a TV, WIFI and a soothing swimming pool. I had actually seen this Villa advertised on Agoda and I booked before arriving.
TripAdvisor and Agoda rule the roost right now among backpackers in Sri Lanka (or at least among those with a wifi connection!), and it is amazing how many travellers pre book their accommodation instead of rocking up to a guest house. I must admit, I found this a lot easier and less time consuming.
When speaking to the owner of this villa, Nikala Kapuru, he was keen for honest feedback as he wanted to improve the service and provide a more luxurious offering. This was a personal way of involving his customers and something that would probably not happen in the UK where social media is more commonly used. I found it inspiring to hear his story and how much effort had gone into building the business.
I came to the simple conclusion that most travellers will look for certain factors when using social apps whilst on the move.
- High review score
- Check the location
- Compare the price
- Facilities – usually wifi, A/C, pool and TV
Then this is pretty much it for the decision process before clicking- book. Does it also mean that these reviews take the fun out of travelling and people are missing a few gems? Or has it simply made things easier?