The Music of Tourism


Tourist board songs are a bit like national anthems; some you love and some you loathe! Recently I’ve been a little guilty of the former in the case of Macau’s Touching Moments campaign. From a smouldering samba, it explodes to life and is a memorable belter! Love her voice, whoever she is (I contacted the Macau Tourism Board regarding this blog and despite some officials viewing my page, there was no further contact). With that said, all I can say is the version I’ve seen on TV is a mere minute or so, however there are alternate versions of tourism adverts with one on You Tube running at 3.34. Yes, even tourism boards resort to the extended mix! For a time, New Zealand chose ‘Waiting,’ by one of its most revered songsmiths Dave Dobbyn with the refrain ‘If you’ve been waiting you’ve been waiting too long.’ Though the version used in the ad was a more heartfelt alt-country folk version sung by Jason Kerrison. This version personifies the land it represents (unlike Dobbyn’s rockin’ original, which does allude to NZ though in another way). In addition, you have to admire a first world country that turns down the offer to release it commercially despite its overwhelming popularity. But how do tourism board’s decide what song to represent them at all? I spoke to Erin Kelly of advertising firm TBWA who devised the Kiwi ad.

Music is chosen to reflect the brand strategic positioning, and also the campaign purpose. If we take the SKI campaign currently in market, the music aims to captivate, enchant and inspire the audience to want to go on a journey and discover more magic (other than just snow). She added.. “The music is then licensed for the duration of the campaign. For SKI this is around 6 months. For a brand campaign it might be 12-24 months.”


Over the years its larger neighbour Australia has opted for many differing shades to represent its vast country of many terrains and as many colours. Rather appropriately this once fell to Delta Goodrem’s beautiful interpretation of ‘I Can Sing a Rainbow’ to the legendary ‘Great Southern Land’ by Icehouse. A song considered iconic and to some, Australia’s national anthem in waiting. More recently the tourist board has taken an approach as unique as the country and its people with their own ‘Making Tracks’ initiative; born from a corporate collaboration between Tourism Australia, Google and You Tube. In turn this threw together Tasmanian guitarist Dewayne Everettsmith and American viola player Jasmine Beams who in the process birthed ‘It’s Like Love.’ Along with many other musical pairings they were sent on a musical journey across Australia with the condition they create a song from the experience. It sounds like a fantastic way to create and perhaps projects of this nature can act as a stepping stone to finally bridging the gap between art and commerce in the future. Certainly he’s already been very fortuitous journeying as far as the New York via the Pacific islands (which still cast romantic visions over most of us journeymen).


But folk music doesn’t just live in antipodes, indeed it has a home anywhere including the Celtic nations with my native Wales picking up the batten on this end of the globe. Mil Harddach Wyt Na’r Rhosyn Gwyn (You Are A Thousand Times More Beautiful Than The White Rose) graces the ‘Have you packed your bags?’ promo. Cerys Matthews modern lullaby was selected by the adverts director Marc Evans. Says the Welsh Tourist Board’s Samantha Dimond “we wanted something distinctly Welsh.” And to that aim, the objective was assuredly met. As with Macau there are different versions; one at 30 seconds and one at 60.

And it seems we Welsh are not alone in pushing folk as the music of choice to represent our nation at the moment (what is it with folk and tourist boards?) Discover America have opted for similar in Roseanne Cash’s ‘Land of Dreams.’ Co-written with husband John Leventhal who coincidentally worked on Marc Cohn’s wonderful 1991 début. Incredibly, according to the info on You Tube, it’s the first ever global campaign by America which really beggars belief! I wonder in what context its meant; digital perhaps. The American’s are also savvy in their marketing. There are several videos you can watch depending on your favourite sense, well except for smell. Hear it, Taste it, Feel it, See it with each sporting the ‘USA/Discover America’ logo in a dazzling motion graphic in as many differing colours. Getting back to the song, both Los Lobos and Bebel Gilberto guest and it has shades of fellow US folk rockers the Hooters, which is no bad thing either. The main thrust of its suggestive lyric urges visitors to ‘come and find their land of dreams’ but what if it’s misinterpreted by future immigrants – to mean that literally!? OK, I’m getting a bit off topic here, just an ironic thread of lateral thinking lead me to believe that for those seeking entry and who never make it or are denied, it remains exactly a land of dreams. What really surprises me however, is that John ‘cool-guy’ Mellencamp didn’t get a look in as his song Pink Houses is – to an extent – reminiscent. None the less, it has a nice vibe and showcases America as a land of harmonic cosiness, even if it’s only partially true in reality.

The same however cannot be said of all countries. The music currently heard promoting ‘Incredible India’ was presumably chosen to represent the land as mysterious, but has unfortunately taken on a darker twist due to the harrowing rape cases that have given India a bad reputation for visitors in recent times. As for the loathsome, there is such a thing as overkill. I refer to the frequently heard ‘Malaysia truly Asia.’ Don’t get me wrong, it’s pleasant enough, though greatly overcooked by broadcast media. What is it with folk and tourism? It must be the Zeitgeist.

With thanks to…


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