Showcasing Sri Lanka to Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

Showcasing Sri Lanka to Sri Lanka

12 July, 2020

For a nation such as Sri Lanka, tourism is akin to the lifeblood of the economy and for an industry like that, attention is vital.

 Where to go, which sights to see, getting out there has always been of utmost importance and while our most famous hotspots have always been in front and centre in terms of popularity, our hidden gems are a bit more difficult to discover.

 While tourists have the possibility of stumbling onto those by chance, no one is better equipped to get places like that attention than our local travel blogs. One such platform is Long Weekend, a social media brand that aims to showcase the gorgeous attractions and activities that Sri Lanka has to offer. 

Youth Observer spoke to the founder of Long Weekend, Yaseen Khan, a professional photographer and filmmaker with his own production company, Magnet Studios. He explained to us how he started Long Weekend with the vision of creating a community of like minded individuals who love and appreciate what Sri Lanka truly is and showcase it in a positive light.

His goal is to educate and inspire, so should someone want to go camping or surfing etc. in Sri Lanka, Yaseen wants Long Weekend to be the go-to for that kind of thing.  

As he explained, Yaseen had always been in the travel industry even before Long Weekend but spent most of his career stuck behind a desk, which felt stifling for his creativity which eventually resulted in him leaving his company.

 “Up until that point, I had never been to most places in Sri Lanka.” Yaseen explained his thoughts at the time, “In the travel industry, our focus was always to sell. I never really took a break for myself to go explore Sri Lanka like I do now.”

 This left him at a difficult point in his life but to fix this, with no real plan, Yaseen set out to Jaffna where he discovered that there was much more to Sri Lanka than what was marketed in the travel industry or even what locals are aware of. This experience gave him the idea to start Long Weekend, in order to educate everyone one the hidden gems of Sri Lanka. 

As inspiration for Long Weekend, Yaseen looked to popular YouTube vlog channels like Louis Cole, known as FunForLouis, YouTube photographer and filmmaker Peter McKinnon and especially massive internet personality, Casey Neistat. Watching these YouTubers helped him learn how to make his content engaging but it was a difficult journey for him.

 “When I started, I wasn’t a video kind of person. I didn’t have that background. I took everything on my phone and basically learned everything I know about video production through YouTube tutorials.”  

When it came to the local travel blog community, back when he started in 2016, Yaseen mentioned how it wasn’t a very strong one. “When I started making travel vlogs, I barely knew any other content creators who made travel vloggers. There were a lot of photographers and travel bloggers but there weren’t many travel vloggers.”  But know, he mentioned, it is pretty common. “Sometimes, maybe there’s a little clutter, since we are a small country with a small demographic but its good to see growth.” Some of them have proven to be great and Yaseen himself tends to follow a few to get some inspiration. 

Long Weekend functions as a social platforming site for like minded individuals who all post articles, photos and vlogs, all relating to travel in Sri Lanka but there are a few regular faces that keep popping up.

 When asked about his team, he said, “This is a very common misconception, cause technically there isn’t a team really. We’re basically traveling friends,” he elaborated, saying that he would basically mention his travel plans to his friends who join in, there are a few commonly recurring faces but there was no official team or employees.  

Long Weekend, though it is primarily a tourism focused brand, its main demographic, at least initially was geared towards promoting Sri Lanka to Sri Lankans as Yaseen felt that, “There wasn’t enough Sri Lankans enjoying Sri Lanka as much as foreigners and there was a lack of knowledge there.”

 But the content in Long Weekend is still good for foreigners, who Yaseen has got feedback from, citing their usefulness in their travels as well. Ultimately, most of the information about travel is pretty universal but Yaseen mentioned how it was still from the point of view of a local on a day trip.

 “Ten, fifteen years ago it was very different but nowadays the line between local and foreign tourism is blurring.” And most recently, Long Weekend’s content has not really made the distinction in demographic like that. However, when it came to age, it was still very much more beneficial towards young working adults looking for new experiences.

Speaking about the pandemic, Yaseen said Long Weekend was almost completely on hold during the lockdown as they could not quite plan activities or go anywhere which was difficult for a travel brand.

 However, in terms of content, Long Weekend was active, as even though there was no way to go outside anymore, he had a huge backlog of footage to upload, which he did, posting pictures and vlogs etc. everyday. “I was doing it for myself and also for those following me to remind everyone of all the great places that we can go to once things get better. It was kind of a way of having hope.” 

Immediately after the lockdown was lifted, Yaseen said he was flooded with projects to cover establishments and sites desperate for coverage in order to recoup their losses during the lockdown. So for travel bloggers like him, for now at least there is a lot to do but there is no telling how things will be in the long run.

 “The entire tourism industry is connected in a way that even though for now, there is a lot of content to be had, if the industry is doing bad, even travel bloggers will also not do well.” So, Yaseen says it is important to adapt with the changes.  

Putting aside the most obvious physical change that comes in the way of having to strictly follow guidelines to avoid any risks, the most significant change for Long Weekend is how it used to be about meeting people.

 “I’ve grown my brand around that vibe a lot. I meet a lot of strangers and travelers and make friends etc. You can’t do that anymore. You have to go with people that you know, and you have to stay with the people that you know. It would be irresponsible to continue as how we used to.” As Yaseen observed. “We are looking at introverted travel moving forward.”  

For travellers, Yaseen advised them not to stop completely. “You can still travel and explore, its just that now you need to be cautious of how you do it.” For travel bloggers such as himself, Yaseen mentioned how for some, if done right, it can be a goldmine now. “Every crisis has its winners and losers, so even in this crisis, as a travel blogger, you can really come out on top.”

 For those starting out, Yaseen emphasized that the number one thing is to be genuine and true to the content you create and to your audience. “Don’t chase the numbers because then you will compromise your content. Find a purpose for your brand and create content without worrying about the results.”