Tag: Nation Branding

Tunisia Tackles Tourism Shortfall with Dark Humor

Tunisia’s role in the Arab Spring wasn’t as widely reported as, say, Egypt’s or Libya’s. But word about the country’s revolution has still spread far enough to cut tourism in half—and the Tunisian authorities are hoping to regain some of that lost revenue through a series of ads poking fun at the unrest.

According to the Guardian, one ad shows a woman enjoying a massage under the caption, “They say that in Tunisia some people receive heavy-handed treatment.” Another depicts an ancient archaeological site, with the tag line, “They say Tunisia is nothing but ruins.”

Tasteless? I suppose if I was a Tunisian civilian who’d been shot at or abused by police during the uprising, I might not be amused. But I think tackling a country’s reputation head-on is a good thing—and hey, as Australia learned a few years back, a little controversy can go a long way.

The European Grand Tour, Chinese Style

The Economist takes note of a new variation on an old theme: a Chinese take on the classic “grand tour” of Europe. From the story:

China’s newly mobile middle classes like to visit established spots like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Venice’s Grand Canal. But the visitors have also marked out a grand tour all of their own, shaped by China’s fast-developing consumer culture and by distinctive quirks of culture, history and politics. The result is jaw-dropping fame, back in China, for a list of places that some Europeans would struggle to pinpoint on a map: places like Trier, Metzingen, Verona, Luxembourg, Lucerne and the Swiss Alp known as Mount Titlis.

(Via @reidontravel)

‘They Like Shopping, Theme Parks and, of Course, Eating’

That’s according to a tourism real estate investor keen to anticipate the needs of a growing wave of Chinese tourists. The Independent reports on the ways some tourism operators are preparing for that wave—here are the numbers motivating the effort:

Travelling Chinese spent US$43.7 billion (31 billion euro) on tourism in 2009 - a rise of 21 per cent year on year. And the United Nation’s World Tourism Organisation says it is only a matter of time before they spend more than visitors from the traditional international travel leaders Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Outbound trips by Chinese are meanwhile expected to jump from an estimated 52 million this year to 100 million in 2020.

Tourism Promotion Through ... Food Trucks?

The Wall Street Journal notes a potential new trend: Foreign tourism boards stirring up interest abroad by offering free food-truck meals to entice potential visitors. Here’s reporter Sumathi Reddy:

Foreign countries are increasingly hoping food is the key to New Yorkers’ hearts—and purse strings. In June, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism had a Treats & Tweets truck dishing out free Junkanoo drumsticks (chicken wings), Bahamian macaroni and cheese and virgin Bahama Mamas for a week. “It was promoting tourism and travel to the Bahamas using food as a conduit,” said Chelsey Lutz, a spokeswoman for the ministry.

This is one form of promotion I can definitely get behind. (Via @collazoprojects)

Mexico Sees Big Bump in International Travelers

Turns out the drug-related violence along the border isn’t stopping travelers from visiting Mexico, particularly its beaches. The number of foreign visitors to Mexico has risen almost 20 percent over last year. From the Los Angeles Times:

The number of visitors to Cancun, the easternmost coastal city, jumped nearly 31% in August compared with a year earlier; tourism to Los Cabos, on the southern tip of Baja California, increased 30%, according to Mexico tourism officials.

Southern California travel agents say U.S. tourists don’t seem too concerned about drug violence because they know to stay far from the border. “As long as you stay in the resort areas, you’ll have no problem,” [Carol] McConnell, [founder of Around the Globe Travel,] said.

Several other reasons are suggested for the boost, including affordability and Mexico’s latest marketing campaign.

Australian Chef: Thai Cuisine is ‘Decaying’

Them’s fighting words. The chef in question, David Thompson, is responsible for London’s Michelin-starred Thai restaurant, Nahm, and now he’s “striving for authenticity” at a Nahm branch in Bangkok, too. The Thai reaction has been predictably indignant. The New York Times explains:

Cooking is profoundly wound up with Thailand’s identity. Many recipes were tested and refined in royal palaces. And Thais often spend a good share of their day talking about this or that dish they tried; a common greeting is, “Have you eaten yet?”

Mr. Thompson’s quest for authenticity is perceived by some Thais as a provocation, a pair of blue eyes striding a little too proudly into the temple of Thai cuisine. Foreigners cannot possibly master the art of cooking Thai food, many Thais say, because they did not grow up wandering through vast, wet markets filled with the cornucopia of Thai produce, or pulling at the apron strings of grandmothers and maids who imparted the complex and subtle balance of ingredients required for the perfect curry or chili paste. Foreigners, Thais believe, cannot stomach the spices that fire the best Thai dishes.

Paris Offers Free Sparkling Water

In one public water fountain, in a wooden hut, in the Jardin de Reuilly. The Guardian explains:

France’s addiction to bottled sparkling water is up there with its penchant for bike racing, foie gras and Johnny Hallyday. Now, authorities in Paris are attempting to fight back against the national dependence by unveiling a public water fountain that gushes with chilled bubbles.

La Pétillante - literally, she who sparkles - is the first fountain in France to inject carbon dioxide into tap water before cooling it and serving it up to passers-by. Inaugurated today in the Jardin de Reuilly in south-east Paris, it is expected to prove a user-friendly means of weaning the French off the bottle.

France pinched the idea from Italy, which already has 215 sparkling water fountains.

76-Second Travel Show: Do Brits Out-Travel Americans?

Robert Reid compares Britain's traveling tradition with America's. The lesson? You wouldn't want to split a pizza with John Steinbeck.

Watch the Video »

Four Great Gringo Songs About Mexico

We just linked to a list of the 10 “most Mexican” songs of all time, and that got me thinking about my favorite songs about Mexico that aren’t Mexican at all—songs that were, in fact, written and recorded by gringos.

Here are my top four. What are yours?

‘Mexico’ by James Taylor

‘Mexican Radio’ by Wall of Voodoo

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The 10 ‘Most Mexican’ Songs of All Time

El Universal has offered up a list of the 10 “canciones más mexicanas.” Great stuff from Jose Alfredo Jimenez, Jorge Negrete and others.

Here’s one that made the list, Pedro Infante singing “Cielito Lindo”:

(Via NPR’s Multi-American blog)

Europe: East vs. West, or North vs. South?

Anne Applebaum thinks the continent’s axis is changing, from the East-West divide of the Cold War era to a new, and more fluid, North-South split. She writes in Slate:

North and South: Not everybody is going to like that concept, especially not the new South, some of whose members are not necessarily in the southern half of the continent. For these are not geographical designations, but political terms of art. The South contains all those countries whose political classes have not been able to balance their national budgets, whose bureaucrats have not been able to reduce their numbers, whose voters have not learned to approve of austerity: Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, and—at the moment—Ireland.

The North contains the budget hawks: Germany, Poland, Estonia, Scandinavia, the Czechs, and the Slovaks. Britain’s new government, with its austerity budget, aims to return to the North, following its recent experience of life in the South. France floats somewhere in between. Wealth, as such, isn’t northern: Much of the South is very rich. But in the North, private wealth has grown more or less in tandem with the public sector. Private wealth and public squalor are more typical of the South.

Travels in a Troubled Greece

Travels in a Troubled Greece Photo by dominiqs via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The country's economic problems are deep and real. So does Greece remain an enjoyable place to travel?

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Genghis Khan and the New Mongolia

The Atlantic has a dispatch from Bill Donahue, who’s been traveling in a changing Mongolia. As Donahue explains, the long-dead warlord is central to the country’s new commercial efforts:

Genghis Khan is Mongolia’s future. After his conquests were downplayed in the history books during seven decades of de facto Soviet rule, the nomad who ruled an empire stretching from the Caspian Sea to Siberia reemerged in 1990, as democracy was being established. Today, he is a poor nation’s avatar of hope—and he’s becoming a major industry.

In Ulaanbaatar, you can drink Chinggis beer at the Grand Khaan Irish Pub. (For obscure reasons, the local spelling differs from the Western.) The Genco Tour Bureau, an Ulaanbaatar-based company, has spent about $7 million on the Chinggis Khaan Statue Complex, a commercially minded homage where the giant steel Chinggis will soon be flanked by an artificial pond, a skating rink, and 200 small gers, or round tents, for paying campers. Nearby, Genco has also built a 13th-century living history museum, sort of a Colonial Williamsburg on the steppes, where artisans make felt by beating wool with wood sticks. And at the Chinggis Khaan Golf Country Club, the greens are tiny, bright patches of artificial turf on the infinite brown.

With a poignant hopefulness, Mongolia, population 2.7 million, is trying to establish a market economy in the deep shadow of neighboring China.

Talking Truth in Turkey

Claire Berlinski offers a provocative take on Turkish culture in World Affairs:

As the First General Law of Travel tells us, every nation is its stereotype. Americans are indeed fat and overbearing, Mexicans lazy and pilfering, Germans disciplined and perverted. The Turks, as everyone knows, are insane and deceitful. I say this affectionately. I live in Turkey. On good days, I love Turkey. But I have long since learned that its people are apt to go berserk on you for no reason whatsoever, and you just can’t trust a word they say. As one Turkish friend put it (a man who has spent many years in America, and thus grasps the depth of the cultural chasm), “It’s not that they’re bad. They don’t even know they’re lying.” 

(Via AL Daily)

The Russians Are Coming ... to Italy

And they’re spending wads of money. Silvia Marchetti writes:

Luring tourists from Russia is a lucrative pursuit in Italy. Many of the most breathtaking and expensive locations have been virtually colonized by them.

They’re the former Soviet Union’s new nobility—billionaire businessmen, bankers and investors who travel across the peninsula in limousines, yachts and helicopters (for 2,000 euros an hour), picking the most romantic scenery for the purchase of dreamlike castles and sea manors.

And the World’s Most Prolific Pop-Music-Producing Nation Is ...

Sweden—at least, it is if you adjust for national GDP while measuring any given country’s share of the pop music market. Foreign Policy has a cool explanatory graphic.

Don’t worry, America: Writer Joshua Keating also notes that “the world’s most popular artists, no matter where they’re from, often perform rock, R&B, and hip-hop tunes that are unmistakably American in origin.” USA! USA! (Via @nobauerm)

VisitBritain Preps Londoners for Olympics Tourism: ‘Don’t Mention the War’

The country’s tourism agency has issued some, er, helpful guidelines for locals in preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games, which will be held in London. Among the tips? Don’t serve prepackaged jam to Germans, don’t mention the Falkland Islands to Argentinians and don’t bring up the Mexican-American War with Mexicans. In the accompanying video, a Guardian reporter takes the tips for a test drive.

‘No Character in a Movie Has Ever Welled Up and Sighed, ‘We’ll Always Have Stuttgart’’

That line comes from a great story by David Segal that explores the pluses and minuses for Italy as it maintains tradition amid the rush of progress and globalization.

In the eternal contest between the meticulously honed and the nationally franchised, Italy knows where it stands. As a matter of profit and loss, it doesn’t make sense to store wool in a spa and let it convalesce for six months, but the methods of Luciano Barbera were never destined for a get-rich-quick guide to manufacturing. His business will make sense only to customers, and for them, quality has a logic of its own.

And of course, the worship of growth has its limitations. The American economy is vastly more robust, but instead of family-owned bakeries, which seem to dot every hectare of Italy, we’ve got Quiznos. And for all the efficiency and horsepower in Germany, no character in a movie has ever welled up and sighed, “We’ll always have Stuttgart.”

Pittsburgh’s Conflict Kitchen: Axis of Edible?

Over at Gadling, blogger Jeremy Kressmann has a cool find: A new Pittsburgh take-out restaurant that serves up food from those countries that America most often finds itself at odds with on the international scene. First up at Conflict Kitchen? Iranian kubideh. The restaurant’s theme will rotate every few months.

Awhile back, we talked to Rick Steves about travel—to Iran and other less-visited countries—as “a political act that broadens your perspective.” I guess we could call this eating as a political act?

‘Was Canada Too Boring for Queen Elizabeth II?’

Gawker goes there, digging up a series of straight-faced shots from the Queen’s just-wrapped visit to make the point. Of course, we know that Canada is the furthest thing from boring—and I’m betting the Queen would agree.