Tourism slogans are the emperor’s new clothes – that’s why we laugh at them!


The three most successful tourism slogans of all time are, surprise surprise, all from the land of advertising glitz and shinola. According to Newsweek, they are: ‘I Love New York’, ‘Virginia Is for Lovers’ and Las Vegas’s ‘What Happens Here, Stays Here’.

But at the World Travel Market last month, the North America section of the vast London Excel trade show seemed subdued when it came to selling itself. Texas, for example, had ditched its ‘Everything is bigger in Texas’ for a visual representation of size via small blue jeans badge on a giant blank screen.

Texas billboard

Texas: where everything is bigger

But perhaps North America was only quiet by contrast. Because elsewhere the tourism slogans and the excessive luxury of certain stalls were shouting their wares.

Take Egypt, for example. It was launching a brand new marketing tagline. ‘Egypt: Where It All Begins’ – in an off-the scale point size on a wall to the side of a small pyramid inside which the travel trade met to do business. (A few days later I spotted it on the side of a number 45 bus back in Birmingham – not quite so evocative.)

Egypt: where it all begins

Egypt: where it all begins

What is interesting is whether such branding, on which tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent in an effort to relaunch a destination, works in a world where most tourism taglines seem to be ridiculed.

When Egypt was casting for a new slogan a couple of years ago, Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey suggested that, judging Egypt on safety, ‘Where it all ends’ might be a more appropriate line.

And then there is Panama’s ‘It will never leave you’ – which, as Jaunted notes, is ‘reminiscent of childhood trauma and STDs’.

While many destinations hope for the success of an ‘I heart New York’, many more create slogans that are instantly forgettable. I realised, for example, that I have no idea what my home city of Birmingham’s slogan is, or even the UK’s? So I sent out a request to teh Brum Twitter crowd – many answers came back but none definitive and no one mentioned The Word Is Out, which is what it seems to be. One too many council marketing revamps perhaps? And anyway can they even begin to compete with the marvellous, once-heard-never-forgotten Birmingham: It’s Not Shit?

[Aside: Funnily enough, Birmingham’s marketing department emailed me after my callout to suggest a quick interview so they could explain Birmingham’s tourism slogan to me. A game of email tag followed in which I still couldn’t get the answer to what the slogan actually is! I mean why on earth does a city’s slogan need explaining? Isn’t that the point of a one-liner – to sum it all up? Anyway...]

So while tourism slogans mostly fail to resonate with their target audience, they do offer a chance for a city, region or country to go shopping for a new image and dress itself up in new clothes every so often (even if they do risk turning out to be the emperor’s new clothes).

I do wonder, though, whether we need this kind of traditional marketing anymore in a world where destinations are mapped so thoroughly on the internet. Who is fooled by a sales slogan when you can dial up authentic pictures, video, social networking, reviews, blog posts, newspaper sections, FCO advice, even local people and travel companies, pretty much for any place and any experience.

Whatever your take on sloganising a place with a one liner, WTM did offer an unrivalled opportunity to document as many of these destination taglines as possible – at least, until the security guard chucked me out.

I manage to snap 44 of them, but there were still 100-plus more countries, states and regions that I missed or had left their marketing slogans at home.

You’ll find the full set of pics are gathered into a set on my Flickr and a slideshow, full list and breakdown in a separate post: Around the world in 44 tourism slogans – because unlike taglines, I can’t keep the word count down. Which, is perhaps both their advantage and their Achilles’ Heel.

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3 responses to “Tourism slogans are the emperor’s new clothes – that’s why we laugh at them!

  1. Pingback: Around the world in 44 tourism slogans « Tourist Vs Traveller

  2. Pingback: Countries’ Presentation of Self « Sociologist Novelist

  3. Pingback: 105 tourism slogans from around the world #WTM12 | Tourist Vs Traveller

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