Most awkward tourism fails of all time
TOURISM campaigns have a very clear-cut purpose: to promote countries, cities and regions as places tourists want to visit.
But there have been plenty of cases where misguided tourism ads fell far short of that mission — and in the process, made destinations famous for the wrong reasons.
Here are some of the most epic tourism ad fails of all time. Some were baffling, some were deeply embarrassing — and some were so appalling people lost their jobs as a result.
SYRIA: “ALWAYS BEAUTIFUL”
In a wildly optimistic display you almost have to admire, the Syrian government worked really hard last year to present Syria — a civil war-torn country that is regarded as the most dangerous country on earth — as a tourist destination.
In its effort to woo tourists, Syria’s Ministry of Tourism released a series of bizarre advertisements, including a really tone-deaf one about Aleppo that used the Game of Thrones theme song.
The ad was careful to omit scenes of destruction in the war-ravaged city.
LITHUANIA: “REAL IS BEAUTIFUL”
This tiny European country, which is beautiful in its own right, took the worst possible approach to self-promotion last year when it somehow promoted other countries instead.
The $193,000 “Real is Beautiful” campaign was met with ridicule when it launched in October, featuring stock images of various Nordic and eastern European countries. Note the irony in the campaign’s name.
The head of Lithuania’s State Tourism Department resigned in the wake of the scandal.
AUSTRALIA: “WHERE THE BLOODY HELL ARE YOU?”
Look, we’re not saying this iconic ad was bad. We’re just saying the rest of the world thought so.
The 2007 commercial, which cost a whopping $180 million and catapulted a little known Lara Bingle into stardom, was considered so distasteful it was banned in the UK and Canada over complaints about its “bad language”.
In short, the ad campaign was a flop, and a very far cry from Paul Hogan’s hugely successful, if a little cringe-worthy, “Come and Say G’day” commercials of the early 1980s.
Speaking of cringe, see if you can get through all three minutes of this promo video from Singapore, which is so bad it seems like a parody — but it isn’t.
It follows a young couple celebrating their anniversary and they spend the whole time pointing at things and saying “I like coming to Singapore” and “Honey, look!”.
There’s even a pregnancy twist at the end.
The ad, which was aimed at the Philippine market, was widely lampooned after its 2014 release and the Singapore Tourism Board quickly pulled it from its official YouTube page.
RHODE ISLAND: “COOLER AND WARMER”
The US state was mercilessly mocked when it released this promotional video last year, which featured a confusing slogan, showcased places to eat in Massachusetts — a nearby but completely different state — and a scene shot entirely in Iceland.
The internet had a field day with it, and the ad earned the unfortunate tagline of “Rhode Island: Dumb and Dumber”.
Rhode Island’s chief marketing officer resigned in the face of the backlash.
SWEDEN: “THE SWEDISH NUMBER”
It was a nice idea. Last year the Swedish Tourist Association launched an innovative campaign that encouraged people from all over the world to call a random Swedish person, who had volunteered to answer questions about their country.
Perhaps inevitably, it backfired.
“The Swedish Number” was inundated with callers asking locals about everything from Ikea and meatballs, but many also took the opportunity to engage in trolling, such as over Europe’s migration crisis. “Why are you guys letting your country get raped by Muslims?” one caller from the US asked an unsuspecting Swedish man.
Similarly, Egypt’s tourism authorities took a gamble in 2015 with an expensive social media campaign that encouraged people to tweet images of the country’s rich diversity using the hashtag #ThisIsEgypt.
The campaign was launched at a time of terrorist activity, extremist violence and reported crackdowns on suspected dissidents and activists in the country.
So many people used the hashtag to reveal scenes of violence and terror across Egypt, and to highlight alleged human rights abuses by the Egyptian government.
Not quite the desired effect.