The National Tourism Office for Portugal describes the country as one of the world’s oldest nations whose boundaries have remained unchanged since the thirteenth century. It encompasses the Azores and Madeira within its region and offers rapid access to other countries in Europe as well as the American continent and Africa. It has mild winters and ‘agreeable’ summers. It has a population of over 10 million, with the highest demographic in Lisbon. It boasts strong and historical and cultural ties with the rest of the world. (Sourced from: http://www.portugal.org/index.shtml, Date accessed, 12/01/09)
Located in South West Europe Portugal has been an economic and politically powerful country and played a key role in early maritime exploration during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
It is clear that tourist brochures key objectives are to sell a positive and appealing destination to travelers; what is not quite so apparent are the disguised messages that are frequently conveyed by the way in which certain pictures are produced and by way of cleverly composed coded text throughout.
Two official brochures issued by the Portuguese Tourism Office will be analysed for their content within this paper. This will mostly focus on visual images as well as some textual interpretation. One represents a traditional travel brochure depicting the country generically, while the other is their most up to date promotional campaign brochure which has only recently been launched.
In Eric Laws’ Embracing and Managing Change in Tourism he talks about using content analysis to make ‘replicable and valued inferences from data to their context’. His model seeks to decode messages according to categories including location, activities, transport and travel parties etc whilst breaking down the analysis in sections; the front page, photographs and text. (Laws, 1998) It is this approach that will be applied to this paper.
Assessing first the more traditional brochure for the country, immediately the front cover conveys a sense of isolation, with what appears to be a digitally enhanced image of a rock in the middle of the sea. Whether this is meant to represent Portugal is unclear and although a little uninspiring it will appeal to a certain type of audience that will want to discover more. This audience target becomes more apparent the further into the brochure you read. The first page into the literature provides a mixture of emotive, nationalistic and evocative images. A local Portuguese poet is quoted as a means of engaging the reader immediately with the prospect of a country which is inspired by the arts, as well as characterising it as a country not to be confused as a seaside resort, but rather for its lesser known rugged mountains and lakes which are illustrated romantically on the front cover. The accompanying text continues to relay all of the diverse things that Portugal has in terms of appealing to a broad audience. These include nightclubs, hiking or deserted coves. However whilst it may seem to want to appeal to all people it is at the same time obviously trying to attract the type of middle class, sensitive and emotional visitor who will be inspired by beauty and poetry. The second page continues with this theme but elaborates on the architecture, museums and heritage to be discovered. Now the reader begins to imagine Portugal as more of an ‘old world’ country, which of course is what it is and it is clear that the brochure wants to emphasise this age old association with Portugal, not so much the seaside resort, but more of a cultural haven. Once again this romantic element continues across the following pages where the quaint old images are elaborated further with the introduction of the idea of romance. It’s as if the brochure has succeeded in coming across as a charming, welcoming country which is most suitable as a destination for lovers and couples to embrace. The reader is told that for the Portuguese ‘romance is as important as the air they breath’ It even goes so far as to say ‘one-night stands are out’ which automatically assumes that the young, single man or woman perhaps coming to the country in a group of similar young and single people would not feel comfortable or at ease. This is not the market that they want to encourage. It is a clever message and not so much cryptic, more overt in its presence. Already there have been four images all of which contain no people in them. This is particularly interesting as it suggests the sender of the message is trying to convey Portugal as a form of tourism which suits escapism.
Pictures of food and restaurants feature across the next two pages with a list of the ten things you should not leave Portugal before tasting. Portugal thrives on its high-level services like drinking, eating and shopping and it seems uncharacteristic then that for a thirty six page brochure only around three or four pages have any images of food, bars or restaurants.
Already this assumes in many ways that the country has defined its tourist and is utilising different methods of trying to attract them. In Finn et al’s Tourism and Leisure Research Methods: Data Collection, Analysis, and Interpretation the authors write about a research study which took place over three years on a remote Scottish Island with the intention of understanding better the relationship between islanders and tourists. Life on the island changed significantly over the summer months when visitors arrived and the study was able to determine that all visitors could be clearly categorized. The categories included day-trippers, summer residents, tourists, returning island-born visitors etc. (Finn et al, 2000) The tourists were defined, known and responded to accordingly.
Each country has an understanding of who their visitors are and will attempt to appeal to them as categories, such as those listed above. In order to do that they apply a number of techniques that will be designed to capture the imagination of any given category. This particular brochure omits any indication of hedonism, instead it depicts couples walking or lone back-packers. There are no crowd scenes, no shots of happy groups of participatory people. The focus remains on large rural landscapes, with urban representations limited to the city architecture, rather than on nightlife or entertainment. The word romance appears seven times in the first four pages, which immediately indicates that the oweness is on this type of visitor; a couple or perhaps two friends looking for meaningful encounters rather than drink-fuelled, party antics. This isn’t isolated to one section of the brochure either, it is prevalent throughout even in the pages selling Lisbon, Portugal’s adventurous capital city. In fact the word Lisbon only features once in some contact details at the end of the literature. Portugal’s capital is referred throughout by its old traditional Portuguese name, Lisboa. This in itself suggests that the tourist office is appealing to more sophisticated and knowledgeable travelers who will know that Lisboa is Lisbon. Some readers may understandably pick up a brochure of Portugal looking for Lisbon, but it is clearly this type of prospective visitor that the country is not necessarily interested in appealing to here. Page 19 goes into tremendous detail about the historical background of the region. For many standard holiday makers looking for a cheap and cheerful get away this will automatically leave them cold and disinterested. The text reads like a detailed guide book in the style of Lonely Planet or Time Out.
The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in the district of Belém is a hymn in stone to Portugal’s maritime heritage, while the Torre de Belém is a potent symbol of Portugal’s great age of expansion. Even contemporary architecture takes on a maritime theme
– the amazing new Vasco da Gama bridge is in the shape of a giant sail.
After the devastating earthquake of 1755, Baixa Pombalina (the centre of Lisboa) was rebuilt in a classical style, but many of the winding mediaeval bairros remain, crammed with fascinating shops, restaurants and cafés. At night they come into their own, offering everything from African to Latin American music – and of course the bluesy melancholy of fado.
This is not the language traditionally associated with grabbing the attention of hard marketing, fast promoting tourist attractions and once again only seeks to reiterate the type of audience they are trying to capture.
The second brochure for analysis is very different in its approach. It has been designed in a deliberately stylized way to grab the attention of the potential tourist. The reader is informed immediately that this has been created specifically for Portugal by the world renowned photographer Nick Knight. A photographer who is British, which immediately eradicates any thoughts of patriotism or national pride which comes across so clearly in the opening pages of the other brochure. And on the cover the reader is presented with a juxtaposing photograph of the Portuguese football manager Jose Mourinho resting above the caption ‘My country has 220 days of sunshine every year’. Jose Mourinho is the face of Portugal, literally. Not only that but the accompanying statement makes it personalized somehow, as if Mourinho was talking to the reader as a friend or confident. This is a very clever way of engaging readers. In addition it is almost as if the writers of the brochure have decided that they need to associate the country more with a well known image. It signifies pride whilst boasting that it is a country blessed with sun and celebrities. National celebrities as well as the ability to attract other celebrities such as Nick Knight. It is a very bold, confident style.
The most noticeable next technique to be analysed is the selected font that the brochure is written in. This looks like old computer style icons, which conjures up images of both the future in terms of technology and of nostalgia for old fashioned computer text. As a consequence the reader becomes drawn in by a familiar yet inspirational attitude towards the literature being presented. Is this the way in which Portugal is trying to be imagined? As an inspiring, forward-thinking country which is also reassuring some how.
As if carrying on with this theme the brochure then informs us that Portugal is essentially trying to re-define and re-brand itself, telling us on page 4, that its many and varied assets deserve to be ‘promoted and exploited….with a proper stage so that they can be seen, appreciated and valued as they are not enough at the moment’. This self-depreciating and yet overly confident message will appeal to readers on a number of levels.
The information which the reader is communicated on page 6 is particularly interesting. It seeks to plead with prospective tourists on the basis of beginning to disassociate itself away from its old Mediterranean identity. Despite none of Portugal’s coast being on the Mediterranean Sea, it has often promoted itself as a ‘Mediterranean area’. For the first time in this brochure it is realigning itself with the ‘Atlantic…and our home’. This signifies a complete change of image and identity for the country and one that it wants to relay to other potential visitors from around the world. After approximately seven extremely short paragraphs along this same theme and a biography of Nick Knight; what emerges is a series of robust images, first of rugged seascapes and rough coastal scenes which invoke feelings of drama, excitement and energy which is clearly what this ‘new’ Portugal is attempting to portray. Probably the most powerful messages are however the next set of portraits which illustrate well known Portuguese people including the architect Miguel Cancio Martins, the artist Joana Vasconcelos, the footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and of course Jose Mourinho. It is a brochure which is very stylised and reads more like a power point presentation than a piece of promotional tourist information. It is particularly visual and leaves behind any romantic, idealised, historical textual information so associated with the hard sell of ‘old world country’s’. Instead it is making a very brave and bold move into re-branding itself as a country to be viewed as a modern contender even going to the extreme of repositioning itself geographically within the Atlantic Ocean, rather than the Mediterranean. Perhaps this has been done in a move towards getting people to start associating it with an entirely new type of holiday which does not necessarily reflect the beaches, clubs and excitement connected to the Mediterranean, but more in line with the sophistication of the brochure discussed earlier. To be considered more like Mexico and Guyana rather than Cyprus and Greece; the more popular and media driven destinations which are more and more prone to be associated with package tours, groups of young people and stag and hen parties. The other rationale for its provocative move might relate to the Middle East; so firmly entrenched as it is in the Mediterranean, in particular Israel and Libya. Recent political unrest and continued problems in this area might have prompted Portugal to consider disassociating itself from its previous identity.
In Pritchard and Morgan’s study, Evaluating vacation destination brochure images: the case of local authorities in Wales, they identified the power and influence of images appearing in brochures into six groups all of which assist with establishing identity; scenery, activities, people, heritage, urban and rural and iconic destinations. (Pritchard and Morgan, 1995). This contemporary brochure proves no different in many ways. It still succeeds in Portugal establishing itself as a vacation destination in that it projects large bold images of Portugal’s natural scenery, not its heritage, castles or monuments, but the wildlife that exists around its coast, the people of course are also iconic representations and exemplify the country as a modern forward thinking and inspirational place to go. No activities are demonstrated but the photographs of well known people listed by occupation craftily suggests that it is possible to do anything in Portugal, whether that be a scientist, artists, architect or even an Olympic champion. Portugal has it all.
The juxtaposition of both brochures; traditional and contemporary have been interesting to analyse in relation to their differences as well as their very obvious similarities. From this angle it is determinable that messages may often be similar or indeed the same but that they can be delivered in very conflicting ways in the context of differing perspectives. Many of the messages relayed in both brochures advertising Portugal predominantly appeal to more broad minded, sophisticated audiences who appreciate and know a little more about life and the world around them. By doing so it sometimes actually serves to discourage anything other than that type of tourist, which may on some levels seem risky, whilst on others is understandable if the country has faced economic, public or political issues due to the nature of their tourism or media associated tourism.
Finn, M, Elliott-White, M, Walton, M (2000) Tourism and Leisure Research Methods: Data Collection, Analysis, and Interpretation: Pearson Education
Laws, E, Faulkner, W, Moscardo, G, Faulkner, B (1998) Embracing and Managing Change in Tourism: International Case Studies: Routledge
Pritchard, A and Morgan, N. (1995) Evaluating destination brochure images: the case of local authorities in Wales, Journal of Vacation Marketing, Vol 2, pp 23-38
Ringer, G.D (1998) Destinations: Cultural Landscapes of Tourism: Routledge
Official Portugal Tourism Office (Sourced from: http://www.portugal.org/index.shtml, Date accessed, 12/01/09)
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