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Where Have All the People Gone?: A Multimodal Critical Discourse Study of the Representation Of People in Promotional Tourism Discourse

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This article critically analyzes how tourists and hosts are represented verbally and visually in a travel brochure about Russia and what power relations might such representation shape. The interaction between hosts and tourists, one of the essential aspects of tourism, provides an opportunity to get acquainted with the sociocultural context of other nations, thus improving international relations. Russia is sometimes regarded as an unfriendly or unsafe travel destination and the Russian Government aims at increasing the popularity of the country among international tourists. However, there are concerns that promotional tourism discourse contributes to shaping asymmetrical power relations between tourists and locals and jeopardizes hospitality. While a number of researchers have examined the representation of people in tourism discourse, most of these studies have only considered the representation of hosts. Moreover, despite indications that various destinations can be represented differently, there is a lack of studies analyzing the representation of people in tourism discourse about Russia. To address this research gap, I conduct a multimodal critical discourse analysis and look at how hosts and tourists are represented in the 2018 Russia Travel Brochure. This approach allows revealing power relations and ideologies expressed in a text by various semiotic resources, such as language, images, typography, and layout. The results support previous findings that by foregrounding material tourist attractions and excluding hosts or representing them mostly as servants or performers, promotional tourism discourse downplays the role of locals in hospitality and contributes to shaping asymmetrical power relations between tourists and hosts. However, I argue that tourists can also be excluded from promotional tourism discourse about Russia or represented as a featureless group, thus establishing an asymmetrical power relationship between the tour operator and tourists. Visual and verbal representation of tourists and locals as diverse individual identities might contribute to maintaining balanced power relations.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2020

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  • Tourism, Culture & Communication is international in its scope and will place no restrictions upon the range of cultural identities covered, other than the need to relate to tourism and hospitality. The Journal seeks to provide interdisciplinary perspectives in areas of interest that may branch away from traditionally recognized national and indigenous cultures, for example, cultural attitudes toward the management of tourists with disabilities, gender aspects of tourism, sport tourism, or age-specific tourism.
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