Kamis, 17 Februari 2011




Promotional literature in general and tour operant brochures in particular are often criticized for the misleading way in which the portray destinations. Representations of the Far East b the West are seen as especially false and inaccurate, employing stereotypical and patronizing images and usin the language of social control and imperialism. This study assesses these arguments within the context of the presentation of the Oriental destination of China b tour operators from Singapore and the UK, and explores similarities and differences in approach. While the preliminary nature of  th research is emphasized, results suggest that there are few significant contrasts between the sets of brochures. Exaggerated language is used to describe the sights to be seen on touring itineraries and some of the pictorial views are romanticized in both cases, but reference is made to more modem environments and lifestyles and there is no conclusive evidenco that a process of Western domination is at work. However, further examination is required of the psychological, sociological, and political dimensions of the tour operator brochure in order to fully appreciate its role and cross-cultural differences.

Tourism brochures         Destination portrayal           Far East perspective            Western perspective

This article is concerned with the tour operator brochure and how it reflects notjust the destination being sold, but also the expectations, needs, and culture of the audience. Examples of brochures pro­moting China from the UK and Singapore are com­pared with regard to their content in order to iden­tify any contrasts and their implications. The intention is to explore the contention that there arc different ways of presenting and seeing, destinations depending upon whether the perspective is an East‑ern or Westcrn one. Commentators have suggested that a form of neo-colonization is at work whereby Asian destinations and their inhabitants are exploited and controlled by the tourist industry of the West with brochures using the language and imagery of social control, whereby residents are represented as subservient to visitors, as well as in a highly roman­ticized and inauthentic fashion to conform to im­ages of the exotic Orient. By conducting a compara­tive study involving representations of the Asian and Western travel industries, these questions can be addressed to see whether this does indeed occur and if it is an entirely Western imposition or one in which all tourists participate, even those from the region irlytholocized.
Study of the Tour Operator Brochure
Tourism brochures have considerable importance for both the operator whose services are being pro­moted and the potential tourists at whom the mate­rial is directed. In the former case, they represent the company's shop window and are a key compo­nent of marketing strategy, while they represent a powerful influence on buyer behavior. Middleton (1993) states that "printed communications are of­ten the most important single element within coor­dinated marketing, campaigns" (p. 183). Given the central place occupied by the brochure and the part it plays in consumer decision-making, it is perhaps surprising that studies of it remain relatively few in number. Indeed, the wider field of printed promo­tional material has been a neglected one, although these circumstances are now changing.
There is a growing body of knowledge about the process of destination image making and place mar­keting, with some consideration given to the function of the brochure, whether distributed by tour opera­tors or other public and private sector agencies. For example, Gartner (1993) distinguishes between in­duced and organic images. The former are classified as overt 1, which includes brochures, overt 2, cover­ing information from operators, covert 1, made up of statements by celebrity figures, and covert 2, endorse­ments by independent travel writers. Organic images, in comparison, are those that arise from personal ex­perience or the experience of others. The analysis of brochure material can thus assist in understanding, and manipulating, attitudes and images held.
Another area of research activity has been explo­ration of the language, imagery, signs, and symbols communicated in promotional literature, which gen­erally reflects complex relationships between the places and people visited and the visitors. Dann (1996a) writes of the need for a greater "semiotic ethnography" (p. 60) of tourist brochures and has made a major contribution to the debate. He identi­fies earlier research into tourist guidebooks in the 1960s as paving the way for later studies, such as those by Buck (1977), Thurot and Thurot (1983), Moeran (1983), and Uzzell (1984). Each focuses on a different aspect of the subject and makes use of methodologies that include analysis of the brochure content and semiotic interpretation, with quantita­tive and qualitative results presented and conclusions derived about reader response, authenticity issues, and the exercise of domination and control through the selection of text and images. More recently, Wicks and Schutt (1991) and Morgan and Pritchard (1995, 1996) have looked at the role of the brochure in tourism promotion of the UK.
Dann (1995) has concentrated on the language and imagery of tourism advertising, adopting a sociolinguistic treatment. He describes how mean­ing lies in the culture of the receiver and extends much deeper than a superficial reading (Dann, 1996b). using Urbain's (1989) phrase about the op­eration of a "narrating consciousness" to help ex­plain this characteristic. Brochure pictures are sub­ject oct to numerous interpretations and the advertiser must assist by including words that offer "anchor­age and relay" (Barthel, 1982) or a means of "Lrans­formina the language of objects to that of people and vice versa" (Williamson, 1983). Photographs are of especial interest and are the basis for Dann's (1996a) model of the tourist paradise, which takes the various forms of contrived (no people), confined (only tourists appear), controlled (both locals and tourists feature), and confused (locals only). Native people fill a variety of functions in these paradises, including those of scenery, cultural markers, ser­vants, entertainers, vendors, seducers, intermediar­ies, familiar, tourists, and natives.
Dann (1993) argues that the brochure actually promotes 
"a set of images, which in turn portray those selected features of a destination that correspond to the person­ality characteristics of the target audience. Although many of the projected images are distorted, stereotypi­cal and inauthentic, they very much depend for their success in paralleling touristic definitions of situations. (p. 900)
Brochures thus tell us as much about those respon­sible for the publications and their audiences as they do about the destination.

For Selwyn, (1996) brochures are "multi-faceted texts which chalenge several conventional assumption about the nature of post modern culture" (p. 16); he offers both a structuralist and poststructuralist reading of a set promoting holidays in South East Asia (1993). Tourists have become "myth makers and . . . tourist brochures are themselves myths whose ideological function is to transform ('first order') images of destinations into texts with ldcologically potent ('second order') meanings for tour­ists" (p. 15).

The Brochure's Significance
The comments and conclusions of these writers suggest that brochures have a complexity and pur- pose that goes far beyond their commercial func­tion as a selling tool. They use words and photo­graphs to project ideas and images designed to meet the needs of the traveler, and reflect relationships between cultures. Signs and symbols are employed to create a self-fulfilling prophecy as the pictures and expectations communicated before travel are then realized in the actual experience, the tourist embarking on the journey with clearly defined pre­conceptions, which are then confirmed. Themes of a search for the exotic or "other" and escape from everyday life are expressed, and these motivational "push" factors become as strong as the "pull" fac­tors of a destination's attributes.
Several criticisms of brochures emerge from the analysis related to the distorted images traded, the absence of authenticity depicted, and a system of mythologizing whereby reality is obscured. The e visi­tor is offered exaggerated promises and a host soci­ety whose culture and characteristics have been pre­sented to suit tourists and the tourism industry. The language is one of "appropriation" according to Dann, and, accompanied by supporting imagery, the exercise becomes one of social control as destina­tions and their peoples are exploited and suppressed. Tourism becomes another form of imperialism and colonization.
In Dann's (1993) account, a brochure writer emerges as
someone rather unpleasant, as a person who atlempt,, to 'mystify the mundane, amplify the exotic, minimise the misery, rationalize the dusquietude and romaticize the strange' (NVcightman, 1987: 229). His master, the tourism industry, 'produces information that too often depicts places as unreal and demeans their inhabitants . . . (information which) is not simply harm­less propoganda, but adversely affects the tourist re­ceiving society and the quality of the travel experi­ence' (Britton, 1979: 319). Advertisers thus appear as grand conspirators, as exploiters, as molders of hap­less tourist motivation and peddiars of fantasy_ (p. 900)
Some of these accusations are open to debate and the travel industry and destination populations may enter into an alliance that is not always based on inequality. Most international tourism still takes place within the countries of the developed world and European travelers to North America, and those making the journey in the opposite direction, do not fit easily into the category of imperialists or neo­colonialists. It would also be misleading to assume that tourists accept the version of reality presented in the brochures as genuine. Many modern consum­ers are aware of marketing practices and are cynical about inflated claims made, being capable of recog­nizing hyperbole for what it is. They know that pov­erty, discord, and all types of ugliness exist both at home and abroad, but do not want a holiday spoiled by their intrusion. They may appreciate that the views of local people and their lifestyles are partial, some­times overlooking the consequences of moderniza­tion, but are still curious about other countries and cultures. The motivation is interest rather than an assertion of superiority or domination.
The question thus arises about the extent of col­lusion that takes place between the advertiser and the target audience. It could be argued that people long to share all the superlatives described in the brochure, and may succeed in fulfilling the prom­ised dreams because they are determined to do so. The compilers of the brochures are only providing what their prospective customers want to see and read, a point recalling the argument that the bro­chure can tell the observer as much, if not more. about the targeted reader as about the place and its people. Such considerations require further empiri­cal study, however, before any firm conclusions can be derived.
Presentations of the Orient in Brochures
Despite these objections, it does appear that the concerns expressed about cultural expropriation, inequity, and ethnic stereotyping are worth raising when considered within the context of the relationship between the West and East, especially the Third World (Mowforth & Munt, 1998). Hollinshead (1993) acknowledges the presence of ethnocentrism in tourism with its marked "Amero-Eurocentrist bias" (p. 658).

It seems that the more distant, strange, and exotic the location, the greater the likelihood of these fea­tures being found. Adams (1984) has argued that brochures use stereotyped and cliched images to establish and einforce false notions of authenticity, while Morgan and Pritchard (1998) discuss ways in  which the Orient and Oriental identities are pack­aged for consumption. They claim that indigenous people feature heavily in the brochures of UK-based operators selling the Middle and Far East, dressed in native costume and pursuing traditional act-%' activitiesI I Ies with no reference to modern realities and lifestyles. Residents are essentially childlike and these portray­als are "by no means innocent of meaning or value, and represent the balance of power between the West and the rest and between races" (Morgan
Pritchard, p. 231).
They draw on the work of Said (1994), who at­tacks the intellectual tradition of Orientalism, describing it is as an  imposition of the West that perpetuates the sense of a European identity superior in comparison with all non-European peoples and cul­tures, symbolized by European-Atlantic power and domination over the Orient. While writing princi­pally about Orientalism as a system of ideas and in­tellectual position pertaining especially to the Middle East, many of Said's observations have a resonance and application in the discussion about the distribu­tion of power amone, the parties involved in interna­tional tourism. The relationships he describes would appear to fit the relative positions occupied by tour­ists and indigenous populations in many brochures as described by the writers referenced earlier, the underlyinc, message one of superiority, imperialism, and racism. After creating the myth of the Oriental, the Westerner then "obliterates him as a human be­ing" (p. 27).

It is not only the generating countries of the West-ern world that are participants in this reduction of people and places to an empty formula. The pro­moters of many destinations, especially in develop­ing countries of the-East, tend to adopt the language and imagery of the colonizers of the West and pro­duce material that contains the same discrepancies and distortions (Harrison, 1992). According to Mor­gan and Pritchard (1998),

even now image creators read from an Occidental script in the case of the Orient. In this way, those who domi­nated thus retain power over those who were, and are, dominated—those who represent, and thus create, iden­tities have power over those who are represented and recreated in the image of a particular world view. (p. 225)

These issues and questions that arise are now discussed within the context of the Singapore and UK outbound travel markets and a selection of brochures produced by their respective industries to sell the Oriental destination of China.

Singapore and UK Travel Markets
 The UK was chosen as a European country whose population has a high propensity to take holidays, almost 46 million visits made in 1997. Although about 80% of trips are to other destinations in Eu­rope, with the Far East and Japan accounting for only 3.2% (International Passenger Survey, 1998), long-haul travel is increasing and the distant centers of the East are exercising growing appeal. China can be said to be a quintessentially Oriental place for most Westerners with an exotic appeal. It is also a country, unlike several others in Asia, with little con­nection to the British Empire and, therefore, free from any bias that might influence perceptions as a result of former colonial relationships. Although now a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, Hongkong has been excluded from the analysis for this reason.
Singapore, too, generates a considerable volume of international travel, given its relatively small popu- lation base of approximately 4 million. In 1994, resi­dents made 2.4 million trips overseas and this num­ber increased to 3.3 million in 1996. The pattern of growth has continued despite the effect- of the Asian financial crisis, so that Singapore now "represents a significant visitor-generating market for many coun- tries in the region, including Hong Kong, China,Thailand and Australia" (Kau & Lee, 1999, p. 382), as well as Malaysia and Indonesia. Such activity reflects the economic development of the country and the rising prosperity of Singaporeans, changing attitudes to leisure, and demographic and psycho‑graphic trends (Kau, 1997). Singaporeans are be­coming enthusiastic and experienced international travelers whose needs are met by a well-developed network of travel agents   with a few large companies and numerous smaller businesses. nesses. Travel agents usu- ally act as tour operators and sell their own pack­ages, although there is a marked similarity among many of the itineraries offered.
While there are some parallels between the, two markets in terms of enthusiasm for international travel, there are also obvious contrasts in size, scale, and maturity. The UK is the world's 4th top tourist spender, while Singapore is 25th (World Tourism Organization, 1999). A major difference is that of geography, with what are perceived in Europe to be the comparatively remote and expensive destinations of the East or Orient being within relatively easy reach for Singapore's travelers. Singaporeans also represent an Asian perspective and a majority of the population is of Chinese origin; it might therefore be expected that the promotional literature will be distinct from that of the West.
In the case of Singapore, the brochures used for the analysis were those produced by four of the lead­ing operators—Ananda Travel, Ken-Air, SA Tours, and SIA Holidays—that sell organized tours to vari­ous Asian destinations with an emphasis on China. Bales, Kuoni, Premier, and Thomas Cook were the UK brochures selected from among major long-haul operators. These cover an extensive list of countries and centers, with specific sections devoted to China. Brochures were for the 1999-2000 holiday season.
The companies are representative of mainstream tour operators, marketing holidays appealing to the general traveler rather than those with a special in­terest. The products also share many features and are likely to attract fairly similar markets, allowing valid comparisons to be made. The alternative of comparing all brochures devoted to China was be­yond the scope of this study; brochures relating to a particular type of holiday, such as trekking, are not widely available in Singapore, thereby restriction any comparisons.
The adopted approach is one of content analysis, considering both the written text and photograph permit some conclusions to be derived about messages that are conveyed by the material, both hidden and overt. Textual analysis is a central tech­nique in linguistics and sociolinguistics, the study of language in its social context. It is also a feature of semiotics, which Is concerned with the meaning and interpretation of signs and symbols (Halliday. 1978; Kress & Hodge, 1983). The role of ideology and distribution of power, involving the concept of agency, has attracted particular attention (Kress, 1985, 1995; Kress & Hodge, 1979). Although few linguists or semioticians have turned their attention to tourism and its literature, others have acknowl­edged the method as appropriate for evaluating des­tination images and their presentation in published form (Dilley, 1986; Jenkins, 1999). Dann's -work in the field has already been acknowledged.
This article draws on the model presented by Fairclough (1989) for critical discourse analysis. which proposes three aspects of vocabulary, gram­mar, and textual structures to concentrate on. Use is also made of Appraisal Theory (White, 1999), which divides evaluative resources into the broad semantic domains of attitude, engagement, and graduation. Bombes (1996) offers some challeng­ing insights into ways of appreciating the visual meaning of photographs, but it should be recognized that such an intensive interpretation was not attempted in this study.
China in Singapore and UK Brochures
A reading of the brochures indicates that the prin­cipal attractions of China relate to its landscape, heritage, and culture. Accommodation also emerges as an important element for the UK market, and this categorization has been adopted in the discussion, which deals first with the text and then with the photographs. There has been some debate about the relative significance of written language and visual coin­munication (Kress & van Leeuwen, 1996), and the question of their respective roles and influences in the tour operator brochure is one that merits further research. In the brochures studied, the photographs are used mainly to illustrate verbal descriptions while conveying  additional information and evoking a more emotional response. Despite their separate functions, the two forms of communication would appear equally critical to the transmission of the tour operator  message.