Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 April 2019

On the move: What's in a tourism tagline?

From 'I heart New York' to 'Remarkable Rwanda' and 'Yes, it's Jordan', is it ever possible to sum up the allure of a tourism destination in just a few words?

NEW YORK - MAY 10: Shirts bearing the "I Love New York" logo are displayed at a store in Times Square on May 10, 2010 in New York City. As a result of a $9.2 billion budget gap for the fiscal year that began April 1, New York State's "I Love New York" tourism office is proposing to cut tourism funding by 13 percent, from $12.2 million to $10.6 million. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MAY 10: Shirts bearing the "I Love New York" logo are displayed at a store in Times Square on May 10, 2010 in New York City. As a result of a $9.2 billion budget gap for the fiscal year that began April 1, New York State's "I Love New York" tourism office is proposing to cut tourism funding by 13 percent, from $12.2 million to $10.6 million. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Not too long ago, I happened upon a story about how the Philippines was planning to refresh its tourism slogan in an effort to woo more millennial travellers. It appears that the existing “It’s more fun in the Philippines” tagline wasn’t quite cutting it for the Insta-generation.

Six years ago, when I travelled to the archipelago, the catchphrase hadn’t long been launched and, after spending 10 glorious days sailing on catamaran trips and diving into jungle-surrounded waterfalls, it was a tagline that I could wholeheartedly agree with. That said, when the nation’s crowning jewel, Boracay, had to close its doors to tourists earlier this year over concerns that its crystal blue waters were being polluted beyond repair, it was perhaps a sign that the fun times were over.

In Scotland, where I’m from, the country’s tourism tagline used to be “The best wee country in the world”, a catchphrase that had its fair share of both supporters and critics, of which I’d place myself in the first camp. To quash any controversy, a few years ago the government invested £125,000 (Dh583,552) to come up with something new. The final result? “Welcome to Scotland”, an entirely uncreative effort that was, in the opinion of many, myself included, not exactly money well spent.

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So why do countries and tourism boards continue to invest time and revenue in creating catchphrases, when summing up a country in four or five words is nigh on impossible? I imagine it’s because when they do get it right, the tagline can stay etched in people’s memories for years to come. Cases in point: “I heart New York” and Las Vegas’s all-knowing “What happens here, stays here”.

Grammar can be all-­important in slogan creation, with alliteration being a favourite for many destinations around the globe, from “Remarkable Rwanda” to “Incredible India”. Another norm seems to be hyperbole – just look to Honduras, which claims “Everything is here”. Not only is this misleading, given that the country is only the 103rd largest in the world, it’s a statement that could as easily apply to a hypermarket as it could to the central American nation.

Problems also seem to arise when countries become too invested in the details. Look to El Salvador, which used to dub itself “The 45-minute country”. Intended to tout the short distances between landmarks in the central American nation, the slogan instead gives the impression that everything the country has to offer can be experienced in little under an hour.

Regionally, the UAE rolls with “Discover all that’s possible”, a play-it-safe nod to the county’s many record-breaking events, landmarks and attractions. In what is almost a reverse tactic, “Yes, it’s Jordan” is the self-depreciating slant from one of our neighbours, despite it being one of Arabia’s most ­culturally-rich nations.

A few years ago, United Kingdom travel site Family Break Finder put together a map that detailed every tourism tagline in the world. In big letters was Russia’s slogan: “Reveal your own Russia”. A somewhat misleading statement, given that the former soviet nation is not known for its transparency.

Perhaps Cape Verde has got it right, with its simplified motto of “No Stress”. After all, that’s the point of any holiday, isn’t it?

Updated: December 13, 2018 05:08 PM

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