Recently on my course we have been reading about how public relations participates in and manages the tourism industry through the construction of national identities that are most attractive to foreigners.
Tourism is a huge industry no matter the country, but much of the tourism we see is carefully constructed through manipulation of images and specific choice of words to communicate a certain image. I would say this is a kind of reputation management, so we need to be careful in what kind of things we say or don’t say when we create and maintain reputation for an entire country.
For example, no country is homogenous in its population, and unfortunately when the tourism industry creates a national identity, the indigenous populations and the non-Western elements of the country’s people get erased or ignored. A lot of non-Western countries try to emphasize their Western characteristics to draw in Western tourists, to make it seem like they are exotic yet safe. Aiming at the ‘familiar yet different’ is a careful balancing act of most public relations professionals trying to create a reputation that will work well in the tourism market.
I think we must be careful when working in the tourism industry to not acknowledge the diversity within every country. I was glad to go see parts of Tel Aviv when I was there with my Birthright group that I would never have gone to go see on my own. I felt it let me experience the city more fully, and I felt as though my tourism was more responsible.
Responsible tourism is the goal–to understand the country as whole, while still having a good time.