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French Tourism Imaginaries of Colombia

Sairi Piñeros
Traduction de Université Bretagne Occidentale
Cet article est une traduction de :
Imaginaires touristiques de la France sur la Colombie [fr]
Autre(s) traduction(s) de cet article :
Imaginarios turísticos de Francia sobre Colombia [es]

Résumé

Tourism imaginaries are very closely bound up with geographical imaginaries. They are constructed from the different information sources which we encounter in our everyday life. Various forms of media play an active role in disseminating information about locations. This article aims to unpack French tourism imaginaries of Colombia by analysing images of this country in media coverage. Analysis focuses on the image presented by television, the travel advice website of the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and comments shared by tourists on TripAdvisor.
The article demonstrates the evolution of a tourism imaginary for a destination associated with negative images, the role played by media, and by tourists today, who can change these tourism imaginaries more rapidly by sharing their tourist experiences online and on social media.

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Notes de la rédaction

This article draws on my PhD thesis focusing on geographical and tourism imaginaries of Colombia, using Carthagena des Indes as a case study.

Texte intégral

Introduction

1A tourism imaginary is a personal (subjective) construct shared by individuals. Collective tourism imaginaries about tourism activities are shaped by the sharing and circulation of individual imaginaries (Salazar and Graburn, 2014). These imaginaries have very complex roots as they are formed by the integration of several elements based on subjective impressions stemming from the life experience of the individual and their interaction with society (family, religion, school, language, history) (Gravari-Barbas and Graburn, 2012), and a multitude of data gathered from other people and the media which inform the construction of tourism imaginaries. However, these imaginaries are also the product of other fantasy elements such as dreams (Hiernaux et al., 2002; Salazar and Graburn, 2014), various ideologies relating to the Other, alterities, and travel.

2Tourism imaginaries are fuelled by geographical imaginaries. Jean-François Staszak (2012) stresses that a geographical imaginary is composed of two imaginaries: the “here” and the “elsewhere”. The “here” imaginary is shaped by the direct experiences of the individual in society, which give meaning to their environment and their spatial practices. The “elsewhere” imaginary is built on representations and images of unknown, distant, exotic places of which the individual has no direct experience. Based on this geographical “elsewhere” imaginary, the individual will construct a tourism imaginary; using geographical images and representations of unfamiliar places, they will construct an image of a place which they would like to visit. Images, sounds and texts relating to that place are constantly circulating on different scales (local, national, international) via the media (press, television, the internet, and social media).

3Media therefore contribute to the construction of imaginaries by disseminating images and comment relating to a country which make the location visible and recognisable (Noyer and Raoul, 2011). These media images of the country “are the product of a sometimes longstanding history of evoking this place in registers which set their particular stamp on this place” (Noyer and Raoul, 2011, §. 38). This regular evocation of a location by the media, which these authors call its “legacy image”, may create images or leave imprints on these countries. They may be positive, in which case they will depict an appealing feature for tourists (attractive landscape, heritage, etc.). However, they can also be negative and associated with risk and insecurity, factors which will make the country seem unappealing.

4However, it is important to stress that the evocation of a location will depend on media coverage and the scale of interaction (local, regional, national, or international). Sometimes, the location will be mentioned at a local level, but on other occasions it may escalate to a global scale. The evocation of a location in the media is in fact multiscalar and relational.

5Thus, countries with a negative image – stemming from the media or encountered elsewhere – will encourage stakeholders in the country to build a new image, which Noyer and Raoul (2011) call the “desired image”; this will include “strengths and weaknesses and various symbolic legacies, while setting out the principles of unity and cohesion within a country” (Noyer and Raoul, 2011, §. 38). This desired or intended image will allow a country to compete with other countries and to consolidate its local identity. The desired image is key to territorial marketing and will therefore be deployed to construct the tourist image of a destination.

6Today, media ubiquity makes it easy to disseminate images and comments relating to a country produced by tourists themselves (Delfin, 2009; Larsen, 2006; Robinson and Picard, 2009; Branchet et al., 2014; Pan et al., 2014; Fournier and Jacquot, 2014; Munar and Jacobsen, 2014). The sheer volume of visual and textual content in circulation generated by tourists means that it can shape our geographic and tourism imaginaries very quickly (Jacobsen and Munar, 2012; Sheungting Lo and McKercher, 2016). The image created by tourists is defined as a “co-created image” (Yang, 2016; Piñeros, 2018), as the tourist is both the consumer and creator of tourism imaginaries (Morgan and Pritchard, 1998).

  • i 566,761 non-resident international tourists in 2002, and 3,233,162 in 2017. Data source: Proexport (...)

7In order to analyse these three images – legacy, desired and co-created – we shall take as our case study Colombia, a country associated with negative images (drug trafficking, violence, and armed conflict) since the 1980s, which has been experiencing a rise in tourist numbers for several years, from half a million international tourists in 2002 to over three million in 2017.i

  • ii French visitors to Colombia have also increased, from thirty thousand visitors in 2009 to over sixt (...)

8This article will analyse aspects of the French geographical and tourism imaginary of Colombia.ii We shall begin by looking at the legacy image of Colombia in the French media and the image of the country portrayed in the travel advice section of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. We will then focus on the desired image, which stakeholders in the Colombian tourism industry promote in France. Finally, we will show the image conveyed by French tourists via their online digital footprint, and their comments on TripAdvisor in particular.

I. The legacy image

9Two sources of information were used to study the legacy image of Colombia in France: the French audiovisual archive of the Institut National Audiovisuel (INA), and travel advice issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Colombia on French television

  • iii Pre-1980, tourism information on Colombia, particularly international tourist guides (D’Aumale, 195 (...)
  • iv Our corpus comprises 3,358 records.

10The HyperBase application can be used to search the INA French audiovisual archive database, which contains records of all television programmes. We were therefore able to identify records for television news bulletins, magazine shows, reports, documentaries etc. which refer to Colombia between 1980iii and 2016. Using the MédiaCorpus tool, we extracted these recordsiv, referencing each record with thematic descriptors of genre, channel, date of broadcast, and locations mentioned. The data was processed using the methodology employed by Jacques Noyer in his research on images and imaginaries of the town of Roubaix, France (Noyer, 2013), and by other authors working on the image of the developing world in the media (Institut Synthèse, 1992).

11Document 1 shows the South American countries featured on French television. Colombia is ranked third after Brazil and Argentina. Colombia features predominantly in television news bulletins, followed by reports, magazine shows, and documentaries (cf. Document 2).

Document 1: South American countries featured on French television between 1980 and 2016.

Document 1: South American countries featured on French television between 1980 and 2016.

Uruguay

Uruguay

Argentine

Argentina

Paraguay

Paraguay

Chili

Chile

Bolivie

Bolivia

Brésil

Brazil

Pérou

Peru

Équateur

Ecuador

Suriname

Surinam

Guyana

Guyana

Venezuela

Venezuela

Colombie

Colombia

Author’s graph.

Document 2: Programme type by channel.

Channel

Broadcast type

ARTE

Canal +

France 2

France 3

France 5

M6

TF1

Original programme

0

0

16

25

0

0

7

Documentary

28

15

35

24

42

0

4

Interview

3

2

15

13

0

3

0

TV news bulletin

302

218

830

498

131

187

776

Magazine show

39

72

114

83

72

57

130

Special feature

2

1

1

24

1

0

1

Report

95

72

97

113

21

71

112

Series

6

0

11

0

7

0

1

Talk show

0

7

1

10

0

6

0

Author’s table.

12Between 1980 and 2016, the most frequent themes relating to Colombia on French television were natural disasters, armed conflict, guerrillas/paramilitaries, drugs, hostages, violence, and sport. Records relating to the theme of drugs increased from 1987, rising from 8 in that year to 109 in 1989. This corresponds to the era of “narcoterrorism”, when Colombian drug traffickers declared war on the Colombian state in retaliation for the extradition of traffickers to the United States. Several politicians, journalists, judges, police officers and civilians were murdered during this period. These events attracted foreign media coverage.

13In the 1990s, the drugs theme had the highest level of media coverage, followed by violence and disasters (natural and human). However, the sports theme was also significant, notably in the mid-1990s.

14In the 2000s, Colombia featured continuously on French television, primarily due to the kidnapping in 2002 of Ingrid Betancourt, a French-Colombian citizen and former presidential candidate who was held by the FARC for six years.

  • v Out of a total of 3,358 records, 1,057 referred to the hostage Ingrid Betancourt.

15During this period, there was significant media coverage both of the many demonstrations in France calling for her release, and of interviews with Ingrid Betancourt’s family. In fact, almost one third of the recordsv in our corpus featured this topic. These circumstances contributed to the French public’s negative perception of the country, and therefore influenced geographical and tourism imaginaries of Colombia. Long-term media coverage of negative events by the international press, i.e. the negative legacy image, therefore impacts on the appeal of Colombia for tourists (Lumsdon and Swift, 2001, p. 183).

16From 2014, there was a gradual decline in the number of programmes referring to Colombia, and the themes of drugs, hostages, violence and armed conflict also decreased. Media coverage focused primarily on the peace process in 2016 (45 records out of a total of 84 in that year) (cf. Document 3).

17The geographical imaginary of Colombia in France was partly shaped by information about Colombia broadcast by the media. This information was characterised by negative themes of drug trafficking, armed conflict, violence, etc. These negative situations and the images which were broadcast of them affected the image of the country as a tourist destination. This can be seen in part by reading the “Conseils aux voyageurs” (Travel advice) issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Document 3: Themes relating to Colombia on French television (1980-2016) receiving the highest media coverage (20+ record)

Document 3: Themes relating to Colombia on French television (1980-2016) receiving the highest media coverage (20+ record)

Catastrophe naturelle

Natural disaster

Conflit armé

Armed conflict

Drogue

Drugs

Otage

Hostage

Paix

Peace

Sport

Sport

Violence

Violence

INA. Author’s thematic classification and graph

Travel advice

18The image of a country for potential tourists is also reflected in the travel advice and travel warnings published on the diplomatic websites of tourists’ home nations, including the United States, Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Several authors have studied the influence of travel advice on the choice of tourist destinations (Bianchi, 2006; Löwenheim, 2007), and their impacts on tourism (Sharpley et al., 1996; David, 2006; Noy and Kohn, 2010; Beshay, 2017).

19In France, travel advice contains information on the security status of a country, contact details for consulates in the destination country and other useful information such as entry and residency requirements (visas, validity period, and renewal), transport, and health. This advice is updated in the light of any recent news, disasters, attacks, violent political tension, viruses, and is modified by the government.

20In order to form a picture of Colombia as seen in France through the lens of travel advice issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we consulted the diplomatic website archives via web.archive.org. In this way, we were able to construct a corpus of texts specific to the Security section of the website between 2000 and 2016 (48 in total). The corpus was processed using Iramuteq, a software tool which performs multidimensional analysis in different languages, in this instance French. We used three analysis tools for this corpus: textual statistics, word clouds, and the Reinert classification. The Reinert classification defines classes by lexical closeness, with each class representing a theme based on vocabulary found in the lexical class.

21The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs travel website has a section entitled “Dernières minutes” (Latest Updates) providing the most recent information on situations which could impact the security of French travellers (natural disasters, attacks, political crises, etc.). The Security section provides information which may affect French travellers’ safety, including risk factors such as crime, armed conflict and attacks, as well as natural hazards and health risks. This section includes a map which shows the different areas of a country and the level of caution required when travelling in these zones.

22According to the archives of the website diplomatie.fr, in 1997 the record for Colombia provided information on travel documents and mandatory and essential vaccinations for trips to this country. At this time, travel advice focused primarily on health, vaccinations and medical treatments for malaria. Information on security in the country was first issued in 1999, and in that year Colombia was added to the list of countries to which travel was not advised (except for professional purposes), which included Algeria, Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Iraq, Liberia, Nigeria, Pakistan (Karachi, and Balochistan province), Yugoslavia, and Zambia (French Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 1999).

23Since 2001, the maps issued by the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs have shown regions to which travel is not advised (red), not advised except for professional purposes (orange) and relatively safe (green). In the case of Colombia, the map for 2001 shows that French visitors were advised against travel to all areas of Colombia (cf. Document 4). This map did not change until 2006, when Cartagena and the San Andrés and Providencia islands on the Caribbean coast became the only places which French citizens were not advised to avoid by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (cf. Document 5).

Document 4: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.

Document 4: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.

French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2001)

Document 5: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.

Document 5: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.

French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2006)

24Between 2006 and 2008, the orange zones (travel not advised except for professional purposes) extended beyond major cities such as Bogotá, Medellín, Cali and Barranquilla and included other medium-sized towns (Bucaramanga, Popayán, Pasto, Leticia), the Coffee zone (Manizales, Pereira and Armenia), the north, and the area north-east of Bogotá (Cundiboyacense high plateau) (cf. Document 6 and Document 7). In 2010, the Caribbean cities of Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta, the Coffee zone and the Bogotá-Tunja-Bucaramanga area were also considered to present little danger for French tourists (cf. Document 9). However, the text of the Security section advised against certain activities. The example below, referring to the Coffee belt, was repeated in the Security section of the website between 2007 and 2013:

“No attacks against French people have been recorded recently in towns in the Coffee belt. However, travellers should never stay at fincas or hotels located outside city centres.” (27 November 2007 and 7 May 2013)

25The graphical presentation of information on the map evolved over time (cf. Document 10), and green low-risk areas were no longer shown from 2013. These maps have had an impact on the imaginaries of potential tourists. One French tourist told us:

“I went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website to look at the map and it really frightened me. It rather puts you off going to Colombia.” (Tourist interviewed in Bogotá, 25 November 2014).

Document 6: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.

Document 6: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.

French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2006)

Document 7: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.

Document 7: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.

French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2008)

Document 8: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.

Document 8: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.

French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2009)

Document 9: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.

Document 9: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.

French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2010)

26Overall, the maps show a gradual shrinkage of the red zone. In 2016, it was restricted to areas on the borders with Panama (Darién tropical forest zone), Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador (except for the border crossing), and several zones in the department of Putumayo, Caqueta, and Guaviare. The orange zones refer to the llanos orientales western plains, Colombian Amazonia (with the exception of the city of Leticia), the department of Cordoba, and the Colombian Pacific coast.

27The extension of the yellow zone (exercise increased caution), which spans a large proportion of the Colombian territory, can also be observed. On the Caribbean coast, it extends right up to the La Guajira peninsula, and is connected to an extensive inland area. We can also note the appearance of the Ensenada de Utria National Park on the Pacific coast between Mutis and Nuqui, villages renowned for their beaches and whale-watching. In the south of the country, there is a very narrow yellow zone between Popayán, Pasto and the border with Ecuador, creating a border corridor between the two countries.

28It should also be mentioned that the archaeological sites of San Agustín and Ciudad Perdida, and Puracé National Park, located in the yellow zone, have been shown on the map since 2016.

29The text corpus shows that the French government consistently advised its citizens against travelling to Colombia between 2000 and 2010. The introductory sentences in the Security section of the website state:

  • “Do not travel to Colombia” (2000-2002).

  • “Avoid all travel to Colombia except for family or professional reasons” (October 2002 to December 2005).

  • “It is highly inadvisable to visit Colombia” (December 2005 to November 2007).

  • “Security in Colombia has improved significantly since 2001. However, Colombia is still a dangerous country” (November 2007 to March 2010).

30Using the Reinert hierarchical classification with the Iramuteq tool, it was possible to obtain thematic categories from the text corpus of the Security section of the travel advice site between 2002 and 2015. We extracted four thematic categories (cf. Document 13). Class 1 (30.6%) refers to advice about travelling within the country, class 2 (13.9%) to information relating to crime (thefts, scams and assaults), class 3 (29%) to payment advice, and class 4 (26%) to security information and advice on security in cities (districts, violence, crime). We can state that two thirds of the information issued by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs referred to crimes committed in the country (classes 3 and 4) and the potential risks to which French citizens might have been exposed if visiting Colombia. These texts are characterised by the statement of instances when French citizens were affected:

“[…] in August 2007, 22 French citizens were held hostage for several hours then robbed by several armed men in the property they had rented some fifteen kilometres from Pereira, in the Coffee belt; there are regular reports of kidnappings and assaults in rural fincas and hotel complexes.” (27 November 2007 to 7 May 2013)

Document 13: Iramuteq tree diagram of French travel advice 2002-2015. Created by the author using Iramuteq.

Document 13: Iramuteq tree diagram of French travel advice 2002-2015. Created by the author using Iramuteq.

web.archive.org; diplomatie.gouv.fr

31In the text corpus, we can observe two lower risk periods in Colombia: the first period was between 2010 and 2013 and the second period began in June 216. During the first period, the introductory sentence was: “Improvements in security conditions mean that all the main tourist destinations in Colombia are now accessible to visitors” (March 2010 to March 2013). However, in 2013 security warnings reappeared in the following sentence: “Colombia is a dangerous country in which fewer than (or approximately) one quarter of murders are due to armed conflict, and where foreign nationals are the preferred targets for crime” (March 2013 to December 2015).

32The second period began in February 2016:

“Today, Colombia is a highly polarised country in terms of security. The impact of the internal armed conflict has diminished significantly and is now responsible for less than 5% of the total number of murders; similarly, bomb attacks, which used to be attributed to illegal armed groups a few years ago, are now very rare and target specific economic interests.”

33The warnings state that internal armed conflict has declined since the peace process with the FARC and the signature of Peace Agreements in 2016. However, they point out that the process with the National Liberation Army (ELN) does not include a ceasefire.

34The negative image of Colombia has gradually changed. The desired image of the country has evolved in parallel, most notably in the tourism marketing campaigns promoted by major national tourism stakeholders, which are presented below.

II. The desired image (tourism campaigns)

  • vi The slogan was altered in French, and the word “risk” was removed (“Colombie, vous ne voudrez plus (...)

35For national tourism stakeholders, the negative image of Colombia on an international level is one of the issues associated with marketing its appeal as a tourist destination. In his Informe Monitor (1994), Michael Porter observed that “Colombia needs to attract international recognition for its products via an image based on the quality of its services” (Porter, 1994, p. 8). In the mid-1990s, the Colombian government decided to begin working gradually on the country’s brand image. These initiatives culminated in 2005 with the creation of the brand Colombia es pasión (Echeverri et al., 2010). The process of positioning this brand was split into two phases. Firstly, internal marketing featuring the slogan Muestra tu pasión (Show your passion) was aimed at motivating Colombians to speak positively about their country and Secondly, at an international level, there was promotion around the Colombia el riesgo es que te quieras quedar (Columbia, the only risk is wanting to stay) tourism campaign disseminated in several languages.vi

36With this slogan, Colombia references the negative image of ongoing risk which colours tourists’ perceptions. The slogan harks back to an image from the past, while offering reassurance that risk is now minimal (Fletcher, 2011). What is most unusual about the slogan is the way in which it transforms the perceived risk into a positive by showing tourists that the “the only risk” is falling in love with the country and never leaving, as they will be enchanted by the beautiful landscapes and warm welcome (United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Committed to Tourism, Travel and the Millennium Development Goals, 2009; Guilland, 2012).

37The tourism marketing campaign used several advertising media (brochures, posters, website, etc.), as well as promotional videos. One of the main videos shows images of foreign visitors in many different landscapes in the country. A male voiceover describes the beauty of the country, the warm welcome offered by its people, the wealth of history, nature, and culture.

“[..] A place that challenges the imagination every single day. A place called Colombia. No one can imagine what Colombia is like. The sea really has seven colours, where the angels go on vacation. The beauty, the variety of animals, the energy of the river, the jungle, the adventure of my life. A walled city open to the world. Without knowing, you fall in love. […] A paradise where whales come for vacation. It’s magical and full of colours and contrasts. A place that surprises you every day in a different way. […] A country full with history and culture where you will arrive one day, and when you leave you know you must return. A country of people who welcome you with open arms and a cup of coffee on the table, this captures the passion of the Colombian people. […] and you realise that Colombia is not what you thought it was, a place where you will be surprised every day in a different way, where reality can be magical and where happiness is just around a corner. Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay.” (Excerpt from the English version of the video Colombia el riesgo es que te quieras quedar “Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay”).

  • vii Versions in other languages feature Spanish, English, French and German subtitles.

38Nine promotional videos for the main destinations in Colombia were also produced, namely: Bogotá, Cartagena, Santa Marta (Tayrona), San Andrés, Medellín, Cali, Amazonia, the Coffee zone, and Santander. In these videos, nine foreigners of different nationalities share their views of life in Colombia in Spanish.vii They each describe their tourist experience and explain why they fell in love with Colombia and decided to settle there permanently.

39The creators of this campaign believe that our negative image of the country can easily be changed into a tourist-friendly image if a person close to us, who belongs to our circle or comes from the same country, can describe their tourist experience to us. The situation can be flipped from “I don’t want to go to Colombia ” to “I don’t want to leave Colombia” (Colombia Travel, 2010 ; Guilland, 2012).

  • viii It should be stressed that “the peace process between the Colombian and the FARC was not part of th (...)

40In 2013, the improved economic situation in the country encouraged the Colombian government to develop the country’s brand imageviii (“The answer is Colombia”) and created a new tourism marketing campaign: Colombia, realismo mágico (“Colombia, magical realism”). This campaign was based on the experience of foreign tourists who had visited different destinations in the country. Unlike the previous campaign, this video featured a variety of destinations, including Villa de Leyva, Barichara and Santa Cruz de Mompox. It also showed fairs and festivals (Barranquilla Carnival, the Medellin Flower Festival, the Black and White Carnival in Pasto), as well as images of salsa dancers in Cali. Images of these destinations were accompanied by a male voiceover describing the tourist experiences and landscapes that visitors to the country can discover.

“There is a place where you feel like the guest that everyone has been waiting for. Where you don’t need an invitation because you always feel welcome. Where you are overwhelmed by generosity. Where getting lost is a pleasure. Where you don’t watch a carnival, you’re part of it. Where flowers aren’t in the gardens, they walk down the streets. Where rhythm is so contagious that it takes over your body and soul. Where once a year, to be equals, everyone changes their skin colour. There’s a place in the world where the first impression is a lasting impression kept in the heart. Imagine what you can discover here. Colombia, magical realism.”

41This campaign also features eleven videos in which foreign tourists describe their experiences in tourist destinations: the Coffee Cultural Landscape, Cartagena, San Andrés (beaches and diving), Amazonia, San Agustín, Bogotá Gold Museum, the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, the Caño cristales in Meta, birdwatching in Rio Claro, Antioquia, whale-watching in Nuqui, and Choco.

42Phrases such as “magical experience” and “unique location” express the main theme of the videos. The aim is to continue to show through the experiences of tourists from different countries worldwide that potential tourists can have unique, out-of-this world experiences in Colombia, or in other words experience “magical realism”.

43In France, this campaign was featured in public spaces. In Paris, for example, the campaign was shown on static advertising at Charles de Gaulle airport, on RATP network buses, and it was also broadcast on screens such as those at the Centre for New Industries and Technologies (CNIT) at La Défense.

Document 14: Advert on a Paris RATP bus. Text: “Where can you visit a place where the legend of Eldorado becomes a reality? The answer is CO”.

Document 14: Advert on a Paris RATP bus. Text: “Where can you visit a place where the legend of Eldorado becomes a reality? The answer is CO”.

Piñeros 2013. Photographed on 25 November 2013.

Document 15: Advertisement at Charles de Gaulle airport T1. Text: “Colombia, magical realism”.

Document 15: Advertisement at Charles de Gaulle airport T1. Text: “Colombia, magical realism”.

Piñeros 2015. Photographed on 18 April 2015.

Document 16: Advertisement at La Défense (screen in the lobby of the Centre for New Industries and Technologies - CNIT). Text “Colombia Magical Realism”.

Document 16: Advertisement at La Défense (screen in the lobby of the Centre for New Industries and Technologies - CNIT). Text “Colombia Magical Realism”.

Piñeros 2016. Photographed on 14 May 2016.

44In these two campaigns, the directors of the promotional videos use testimonials from foreign tourists to promote Colombian destinations. Similarly, both campaigns focus on the experiences of foreign tourists visiting the country by using photographs and texts posted by tourists with the hashtag #Colombiatravel on the social media sites Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Instagram, and also micro-narratives of their travel experience shared on the official Colombian tourism site Colombia.travel.com. Furthermore. tourism campaign developers invite Colombians to publish and share their photos via Flickr “to promote the image of the country as seen through the eyes of Colombians” (Colombia Travel, 2017).

Document 17: “For ‘Flickr’: photos by people like you”

Document 17: “For ‘Flickr’: photos by people like you”

Colombia.travel website in French 2009.

Document 18: Appeal to Colombians to share their photos on the Flickr group “Colombia es realismo magico”.

Document 18: Appeal to Colombians to share their photos on the Flickr group “Colombia es realismo magico”.

Colombia Realismo Magico 2017 website.

45The use of these photos and micro-narratives is a way of showing visitors to the website (potential tourists) that people like them have visited Colombia and had a variety of experiences there. But it also reveals that by sharing their experiences, tourists are part of the process of co-creating images and geographical and tourism imaginaries in different ways.

III. The co-created image (French tourists)

46A tourism experience aggregates all the elements of a process of anticipation, practices, and perceptions which can change after a trip. At the anticipation stage, tourists gather information on the destination. Once they are in situ, tourists experience the geographic space. On the basis of tourism practices, they therefore forge their tourism experiences and build an image of this geographical and tourist space based on reality. When they return home, they describe their travel experience to friends and family through letters, postcards, and photo albums or in conversations at parties and gatherings. Developments in communication and internet technologies mean that they can share experiences more easily and almost instantaneously, initially through email and texts. With new messaging services such as Skype and WhatsApp, social networks (Facebook) and apps, photos can be posted online (Flickr, Panoramio, Picassa, Instagram, etc.) and shared more easily. Moreover, with social media they can be shared with a global audience beyond family and friendship circles.

47In this section, I will show the results of analysis of the comments posted on TripAdvisor by French-speaking tourists about all attractions (2,953 up to 2016). Each comment has been coded for integration into the Iramuteq textual analysis software. I applied the Reinert classification to identify classes on the basis of lexical proximity. This is illustrated by a tree diagram of the distribution of classes and their relationship to each other within a hierarchical cluster. For each lexical class, the percentage of words from the entire corpus belonging to that class is shown. For comments in French, the Reinert classification produced 6 lexical classes (cf. Document 19) which are clearly divided into two main themes: historical heritage and sites which are more natural. The classes are distributed from the second hierarchical level, and classes 5 and 6 appear at this level. The former accounts for 17.4% with the words “église/church, place/square”, and the latter accounts for 17.2% with the words “expérience/experience, équipe/team”. At the third level, we have class 4 (18%) and class 3 (15.8%) on one side and classes 2 (13.8%) and 1 (17.8%) on the other side. The words “musée/museum, or/gold, collection/collection” are associated with class 4, and the words “histoire/history, intéressante/interesting” with class 3. In class 1, we find the words “plage/beach, île/island, eau/water”, and in class 2 “palmier/palm tree, randonnée/hike, cheval/horse, paysage/landscape”.

Document 19: Tree diagram of the Reinert classification of comments in French on TripAdvisor Colombia attractions.

Document 19: Tree diagram of the Reinert classification of comments in French on TripAdvisor Colombia attractions.

48We also carried out a statistical analysis of these classes using correspondence analysis (CA). This provides a spatial breakdown of data (words) in the form of an N-dimensional graph. The position of the words on the factorial plane is defined by the Euclidean distance – the smaller the distance between two words, the more similar they are.

49On the CA for the Reinert classification of comments in French (cf. Document 20), we can observe a star pattern of six classes. Classes 1 and 2 form a single branch (bottom right) bringing together words relating to nature (plage/beach, eau/water, montagne/mountain, palmier/palm tree, végétation/greenery, paysage/landscape), and activities (tuba/snorkelling, baigner/swim, excursion/excursion, randonnée/hike, monter/climb, nager/swim, cheval/horse), but also words with negative connotations (arnaque/scam, fuir/run away, éviter/avoid, attendre/wait, cher/expensive). Class 6 “experiences” is quite far away from classes 1 and 2; it represents various types of tourist service (professionnel/professional, staff/staff, organisation/organisation, équipe/team, agence/agency), feelings aroused by the experience (inoubliable/unforgettable, familial/family-oriented, chaleureux/warm, gentillesse/kindness, top/great), and services (remercier/thank, recommander/recommend, rassurant/reassuring). This class is close to class 3, which refers to “guides/guides, guider/guide”, content or descriptions during tours (intéressant/interesting, captivant/fascinating, passionnant/exciting, passionné/passionate, raconter/describe, explication/explanation, détaillé/detailed, instructif/informative), and languages (espagnole/Spanish, anglaise/English, française/French). Class 5 is remote from class 3, but close to class 4. Class 5 represents museums (pièce/room, collection/collection, œuvre/work, exposition/exhibition, objet/artefact), words associated with art (peinture/painting, aquarelle/watercolour, céramique/ceramic, sculpture/sculpture, tableau/painting, orfèvrerie/gold or silverware), and types of art (précolombien/pre-Colombian, fossile/fossil, tombeau/grave). However, class 5 is more closely linked with architecture (église/church, place/square, rue/street, ruelle/alleyway, colonial/colonial, édifice/building, maison/house, monument/monument, patio/patio, façade/facade), activities (promener/walk, flâner/stroll, reposer/rest, fréquenter/visit) and associated adjectives (pittoresque/picturesque, animé/lively, coloré/colourful, géant/giant, richement/richly, paisible/peaceful).

Document 20: Factorial plane of the CA of French comments on TripAdvisor Colombia attractions.

Document 20: Factorial plane of the CA of French comments on TripAdvisor Colombia attractions.
  • ix Co-occurrence is defined as: the simultaneous appearance of two or more elements or classes of elem (...)

50We analysed the TripAdvisor comments using similarity analysis to illustrate the relationships between words in a graph. The words represent nodes (the higher the frequency the larger the size) and the edges (links) represent the simultaneous occurrence of two or more words, i.e. co-occurrence.ix The edges (links) are therefore thicker when there are more co-occurrences of words. This graph also shows lexical communities.

51The results of the similarity analysis of comments in French (cf. Document 21) show a main community “voir/see” associated with the words “passer/spend” “moment/time” “journée/day” “nuit/night, “meilleur/better”, “magnifique/wonderful”, “valoir/peine /worth/effort”, and “endroit/place”. Four sub-communities branch off this main community: the sub-community “ville/town” associated with “quartier/district” and “historique/histoire/historic/history”; the sub-community “petit/small”, which contains the words “local/local”, “île/island” and “village/village”; the sub-community “aller/go”, which contains the words “prendre/take”, “temps/time” and “photo/photo”; and the community “beau/beautiful” where the words “plage/beach”, “église/church” and “nature/nature” are linked. This sub-community has a strong synergy with the “voir/see” community. Similarly a sub-community branches off from “beau/beautiful” – “visite/guide/visit/guide”.

Document 21: Identification of communities from all comments in French on TripAdvisor Colombia attractions.

Document 21: Identification of communities from all comments in French on TripAdvisor Colombia attractions.

The words shown have a frequency of 100+.

52Identifying lexical communities using similarity analysis reveals the aspects most frequently described by French speakers in their comments on attractions on TripAdvisor. The main communities consist of a central word surround by other related words. Thus, the word “voir” (see) is at the centre of French speaker’s discourse and is closely associated with the adjective “beau” (beautiful). Several sub-communities branch off and illustrate the words and relationships which are most frequently used in comments shared by French speakers.

53Lastly, analysis of micro-narratives made it possible to identify the themes in discourse shared by French tourists who have been to Colombia. They refer to colonial architecture, beach areas, outdoor activities, and landscapes. Readers and potential travellers can use these elements to enrich their tourism imaginary.

Conclusion

54Tourism imaginaries are nurtured by several components which individuals gather through their life experiences and social interaction (family, religion, school, language, history) (Gravari-Barbas and Graburn, 2012). This tourism imaginary is also based on the geographical imaginary of an “elsewhere” (Staszak, 2012), which is constructed from representations and images of unfamiliar, distant and exotic places. Media play a part in the circulation of information about these unfamiliar locations and influence the construction of tourism imaginaries.

55This article has used the case study of Colombia to illustrate the role played by media in the construction of tourism imaginaries, drawing on the concept of a legacy image and a desired image (Noyer and Raoul, 2011). The legacy image of Colombia in France is characterised by negative elements (drug trafficking, violence, armed conflict), which have affected its image as a tourist destination. This is evident in the travel advice issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, since 2014, the legacy image of Colombia in the French media and in the Security section of the government website has improved. This can be attributed to the gradual decrease in negative information in the media, and more low-key discourse around security in Colombia. These two aspects have been influenced by the peace process with the FARC. The transition towards a more positive image of Colombia is ongoing, and will depend in the future on the implementation of the Peace Agreements and the process with the National Liberation Army (ELN).

  • x Source: Citur - Tourist Information Centre, Colombian Ministry of Trade Industry and Tourism.

56This positive change in the image of Colombia among French people has led to an increase in the number of French tourists visiting this South American country from forty-two thousand visitors in 2014 to over sixty-six thousand in 2017.x However, this change in Colombia’s image will also be influenced by the co-created image produced by tourists. This image, created by tourist experiences and shared online and on social media, can positively or negatively influence the images and imaginaries of people consuming it. It can, therefore, have an impact on the tourism practices of potential tourists.

57Lastly, the concepts of legacy image, desired image (Noyer and Raoul, 2011) and co-created image (Piñeros, 2018) offer a key to studying the process of constructing a tourism imaginary of a destination. Together, these three concepts bring a new a contribution to knowledge in the area of tourism and geographic imaginaries influenced by the media and social media, which now play a key role in the construction of tourism imaginaries and practices.

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Note de fin

i 566,761 non-resident international tourists in 2002, and 3,233,162 in 2017. Data source: Proexport and Citur - Tourist Information Centre, Colombian Ministry of Trade Industry and Tourism.

ii French visitors to Colombia have also increased, from thirty thousand visitors in 2009 to over sixty-six thousand in 2017. Source: Citur - Tourist Information Centre, Colombian Ministry of Trade Industry and Tourism.

iii Pre-1980, tourism information on Colombia, particularly international tourist guides (D’Aumale, 1956; Aprile-Gniset, 1971; Tailly, 1976; Simon, 1979) and guides produced by national tourism stakeholders (Corporación Nacional de Turismo, 1971, 1980), conjured up Eldorado and the varied landscapes of this area.

iv Our corpus comprises 3,358 records.

v Out of a total of 3,358 records, 1,057 referred to the hostage Ingrid Betancourt.

vi The slogan was altered in French, and the word “risk” was removed (“Colombie, vous ne voudrez plus en repartir” – Colombia, you’ll never want to leave). There was no explanation for this change, but we believe it was probably connected with the fact that Ingrid Betancourt had just been released after six years of detention and her story received extensive coverage in the French press (we found 445 records on the INA database between 2002 and 2008 relating to the kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt).

vii Versions in other languages feature Spanish, English, French and German subtitles.

viii It should be stressed that “the peace process between the Colombian and the FARC was not part of the country’s brand image [or tourism campaigns]” (Bassols 2016, p. 8). But the signature of the peace agreements in 2016 showed the world that Colombia was an increasingly safe destination. However, the benefits of the implementation of the peace agreements for the image of Colombian tourism are part of an ongoing process.

ix Co-occurrence is defined as: the simultaneous appearance of two or more elements or classes of elements in the same discourse (CNRTL: http://www.cnrtl.fr/definition/cooccurrence).

x Source: Citur - Tourist Information Centre, Colombian Ministry of Trade Industry and Tourism.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Document 1: South American countries featured on French television between 1980 and 2016.
Légende Uruguay
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/3806/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 12k
Titre Document 3: Themes relating to Colombia on French television (1980-2016) receiving the highest media coverage (20+ record)
Légende Catastrophe naturelle
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/3806/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 84k
Titre Document 4: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.
Crédits French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2001)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/3806/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 15k
Titre Document 5: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.
Crédits French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2006)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/3806/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 29k
Titre Document 6: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.
Crédits French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2006)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/3806/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 44k
Titre Document 7: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.
Crédits French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2008)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/3806/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 128k
Titre Document 8: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.
Crédits French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2009)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/3806/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 52k
Titre Document 9: Map of regions to which it is not advised to travel.
Crédits French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2010)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/3806/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 52k
Titre Document 13: Iramuteq tree diagram of French travel advice 2002-2015. Created by the author using Iramuteq.
Crédits web.archive.org; diplomatie.gouv.fr
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/3806/img-9.png
Fichier image/png, 16k
Titre Document 14: Advert on a Paris RATP bus. Text: “Where can you visit a place where the legend of Eldorado becomes a reality? The answer is CO”.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/3806/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 104k
Titre Document 15: Advertisement at Charles de Gaulle airport T1. Text: “Colombia, magical realism”.
Crédits Piñeros 2015. Photographed on 18 April 2015.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/3806/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 92k
Titre Document 16: Advertisement at La Défense (screen in the lobby of the Centre for New Industries and Technologies - CNIT). Text “Colombia Magical Realism”.
Crédits Piñeros 2016. Photographed on 14 May 2016.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/3806/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 96k
Titre Document 17: “For ‘Flickr’: photos by people like you”
Crédits Colombia.travel website in French 2009.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/3806/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 116k
Titre Document 18: Appeal to Colombians to share their photos on the Flickr group “Colombia es realismo magico”.
Crédits Colombia Realismo Magico 2017 website.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/3806/img-14.png
Fichier image/png, 754k
Titre Document 19: Tree diagram of the Reinert classification of comments in French on TripAdvisor Colombia attractions.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/3806/img-15.png
Fichier image/png, 20k
Titre Document 20: Factorial plane of the CA of French comments on TripAdvisor Colombia attractions.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/3806/img-16.png
Fichier image/png, 44k
Titre Document 21: Identification of communities from all comments in French on TripAdvisor Colombia attractions.
Légende The words shown have a frequency of 100+.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/3806/img-17.png
Fichier image/png, 87k
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Sairi Piñeros, « French Tourism Imaginaries of Colombia », Via [En ligne], 15 | 2019, mis en ligne le 22 novembre 2019, consulté le 04 avril 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/3806 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/viatourism.3806

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Université Bretagne Occidentale

http://www.univ-brest.fr/btu

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