Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)

Con­sci­en­tious Tourism

How so­cial me­dia is help­ing blog­gers make a last­ing im­pact

- Travel · Sri Lanka · Galle · Southern Province · Uva Province · National Park Service

Hik­ing in the Knuck­les moun­tain range, wa­ter­falls in Bam­barakanda, panoramic views of the South­ern Coast from atop Ele­phant Rock, or the pic­turesquely framed ter­raced rice fields of Uva. If these lo­cales ring a bell, then con­grat­u­la­tions you're prob­a­bly more well-trav­elled than the av­er­age Sri Lankan tourist, but if not then fret not as a new brand of Sri Lankan blog­gers and in­flu­encers have ar­rived to sate your wan­der­lust.

Fore­most among them is Tashiya De Mel, who runs the @Lostincey­lon han­dle on In­sta­gram, where she takes you on a cu­rated jour­ney off the beaten path, in­tro­duc­ing her 6000-strong fol­lower base to the beauty of Sri Lanka that not many may be fa­mil­iar with.

“There's a ton of travel in­flu­encers or blog­gers, go­ing to places, show­ing the in­side of a ho­tel room, show­ing the food that they ate. That's not what I want Lost in Cey­lon to be about; it's not about me,” ex­plains De Mel, who scarcely even has a pic­ture of her­self posted on her page.

“There's a lot of di­ver­sity in places to see, but peo­ple don't see them as much.” In­deed, when trav­el­ling around Sri Lanka there's now a ver­i­ta­ble check­list of sites to see for the av­er­age tourist: Yala and Wil­pattu Na­tional Parks, Si­giriya, World's End, Hor­ton Plains, Unawatuna, Arugam Bay, Galle, to name but a few. For De Mel, her travel

The hope is that as the sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try grad­u­ally im­proves her page can serve as a plat­form for tourists to find travel des­ti­na­tions where so­cial dis­tanc­ing is made eas­ier

ad­ven­tures around Sri Lanka started sim­i­larly but it wasn't long be­fore she be­gan to see the vast down­side to tourists flock­ing to the same sites re­peat­edly.

“What I started re­al­is­ing once I started do­ing this was other things within tourism and trav­el­ling - things that I felt re­ally wasn't part of the con­ver­sa­tion - like pol­lu­tion, waste, and over-tourism.

“I wanted to start ad­dress­ing is­sues of how we travel more re­spon­si­bly, how do you think about stuff when you go to a new land­scape, how do you ap­pre­ci­ate the place you're in? And then work to­wards con­serv­ing that in some way.”

De Mel, who is a com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist by trade but has al­ways had a pas­sion for photograph­y, says In­sta­gram has been the ideal plat­form for get­ting her mes­sage across, while cer­tain fea­tures, such as In­sta­gram Sto­ries, she says has al­lowed her to share her ex­pe­ri­ences in as au­then­tic a way as pos­si­ble.

“In­sta­gram has been cru­cial in show­cas­ing that as­pect, and giv­ing peo­ple a very vis­ual way to un­der­stand the mes­sage.

“I also try and keep my stuff sim­ple. As a vis­ual per­son I try to post what I like to see. In that sense I like for the video or vis­ual of the land­scape to speak and the text ac­com­pa­ny­ing it to be min­i­mal, and only with in­for­ma­tion you need to know. And al­ways mak­ing it a story in some way, where you mix it up with polls and ques­tions as well.”

This has also al­lowed De Mel to, in a way, cre­ate a brand­ing for her­self and her con­tent, with her fol­low­ers now able to eas­ily dif­fer­en­ti­ate her con­tent from other pages sim­ply by virtue of their stylis­tic feel.

“It's helped me de­velop a vis­ual style that I use. It's sort of like a brand­ing in a way, which is some­thing I try to stick with, so that peo­ple know it's me post­ing when they see the con­tent.

“The beauty of In­sta­gram is very vis­ual, it's clean, it works nicely. I'm not an ex­pert on any­thing, I'm just a per­son talk­ing about is­sues or try­ing to get peo­ple to un­der­stand cer­tain things.

I would not have been able to do it on other plat­forms or in my own ca­pac­ity.” Fol­low­ing the out­break of COVID-19, De Mel's travel ex­cur­sions have def­i­nitely taken a back seat, but the hope is that as the sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try grad­u­ally im­proves her page can serve as a plat­form for tourists to find travel des­ti­na­tions where so­cial dis­tanc­ing is made eas­ier.

The virus has also shed light on the con­tin­u­ing im­por­tance of ad­dress­ing is­sues such as cli­mate change and en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion, with the stud­ies show­ing the in­creas­ing preva­lence of ex­treme weather events mak­ing the fu­ture con­tain­ment of sim­i­lar viruses much harder.

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