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Countries’ Presentation of Self

Short “midweek” post (label only applicable because my weekend posts have been coming on Tuesdays the last few weeks — attempting to get back on the Sunday-morning schedule this week) in the spirit of “Hey, lookit that…”

I get several bougie/bobo magazines over the course of a month, which is always  an opportunity to check out advertising targeting those who have more disposable income than I do. My favorite kind of bougie advertisement, by far, is “national advertising,” where countries that might not be seen as the trendiest choice for American tourists attempt to sum themselves up in a single page and a few pictures. While some of them are artfully and tastefully done, for the most part, the campaigns remind me of the buzzword-style endorsement used in the Book of Mormon song “Two By Two,” where the young missionaries get their assignments and bounce off to them saying things like “Oh, wow, Norway! Land of gnomes! And trolls!” (for what it’s worth, the Norway tourism site seems to have nothing about either gnomes OR trolls, but then again, I didn’t do a comprehensive analysis there…) Here’s a post from the blog Tourist vs. Traveler listing a bunch of different country slogans and photos, some of them better than others. She points out a few unfortunate ones in particular, like Panama’s “It will never leave you” (which, as Jaunted points out, is a little too easy to twist into something with unpleasant antecedents).

The ad that caught my eye in my Smithsonian magazine this week was for Guatemala: like much of the advertising for Central American countries, it features a beautiful “natural” setting and a man in vaguely traditional clothing, but the real highlight is the words “2012: It’s Not Just a Date. It’s a Place. It’s Guatemala,” with the implication there being that this is the place to go to witness the end of the world. I guess “apocalypse tourism” has its appeal, but it seems like a strange thing to focus on for a country (and a culture) that presumably has much more for visitors to experience than the inevitable tour explaining how the Mayan calendar does not REALLY predict the end of the world.

All this got me thinking about how tourism boards might spin our favorite fictional magic-warlord-inhabited, war-torn or otherwise touristically unattractive destinations. I wandered around the Internet for a little while and found a few entertaining things, pretty much exclusively for Game of Thrones/Westeros (like this artist‘s prints advocating trips to Pyke, Tarth and Skagos, or this one with Westerosi postcards (“Westeros: For the last time, it’s not Middle Earth”), but for the most part, it seems like unexplored territory.

What do y’all think? Good tourist taglines for Middle Earth? For Tatooine and Alderaan? For Caprica? Let the creativity flow… 🙂

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