The discussion of public diplomacy led me to consider the implications of soft power in the form of tourism and particularly advertisement of tourism.
After battling years of dwindling tourism dollars, Colombia redeveloped its travel sector by cultivating an aggressive publicity and advertisement campaign. After years of prompting its image and particularly its safety, Colombia has begun attracting tourists back to the country.
A similar decrease in foreign visitors has prompted The Mexico Tourism Board, eager to implement a similarly aggressive strategy to improve Mexico’s reputation. Plagued by border violence, drug-related crime, and kidnapping, The Mexico Tourism Board is most concerned with altering the perception that it is an unsafe destination for tourists. And the the reputation is unfounded. In Sepetmber the bodies of 35 tourists were dumped in the popular tourist destination of Veracuz, and mass grave of 18 tourists was discovered a year ago.
But, Mexico’s new commercials, which are now showing on several U.S. cable channels, feature candid-camera style interviews with American tourists returning from vacations in the country. The Mexico Taxi Project is the Mexico Tourism Boards effort to capture the unbiased opinions of Americans who know Mexican resorts, destinations, and activities. The rationale of the campaign’s creative team is that viewers are more likely to believe the “candid” opinions of other Americans as opposed to well-crafted and polished promos featuring model-like tourists frolicking on white sand beaches with pina colada in hand. The imagery and tone of the commercial suggests that Mexico is attempting to adapt word-of-mouth marketing to a mass audience.
Only time will tell if it can successful reinvigorate Mexico’s lackluster tourism sector, however until the country can get its affairs in order and curb violence fueled by confrontations of drug cartels the campaign may be all for naught. While the success of Colombia’s campaign serves a model of success, it was just a late-implemented component of a larger body of reforms aimed at combating narco-terrorism and. That is to say the ad campaigns were successful at drawing tourists to Colombia only after the country had begun to successfully improve its situation.