Writing for Tourism: Travel Writing

 

Writing for Tourism: Travel Writing



 

The earlier site of this block stressed upon the importance of communication in tourism. Here we have chosen writing as an important skill in communication for a detailed discussion. 

An itinerant tourist is unfamiliar with the product (destination and services) unless it is experienced. It is always to be remembered that howsoever good the tourism product may be, the first time visitor is a total stranger to its environs. Moreover, it is not necessary that the experience will always be the same for a repeat visitor. Similarly, what is true of someone else's experience may not hold well in the case of another. 

This is because preferences are far too personal. The would be tourist fancies-

1. What makes for holiday

2. An enjoyable destination

3. Satisfactory accommodation.

4. The attraction of frills like a bit of adventure, variety of food, entertainment and some amount of shopping.

In other words, a planned holiday, especially for the first time traveler, is a dream. This is where communication in the mode of writing plays an important role. In fact, it is seen that in most of the cases the write ups influence tourist's choice and demand. These write ups (in newspaper, magazine, brochure or puma etc. his/her dream becoming a reality-if not in full measure at least to the maximum extent. The level of satisfaction for example if a tourist is told in advance that a blanket would not be provided she will be equipped with one before venturing on the journey. A failure to provide this minor information (as some writer may feel) can spoil an entire holiday or prejudice a person's entire view of an otherwise good destination. Besides looking at the history of travel writing briefly, this unit also attempts to examine the present status of tourism writing in contemporary contest. The various aspects desalted with include the qualities of a writer in the field, objectives of such writings, themes, promotional literature, dos and don'ts etc.

  

Travel Writing: Past and Contemporary

Travelogues date back to ancient times and exist mostly in the form of stories of merchants or pilgrims travelling to distant lands. Be it the Jataka stories or the accounts of Fa Hein, Huan Tsang, Megasthesnese, Marco Polo, Al Baruni, Ibn Battuta, Bernier and many others-all provide not only the missing links in history but information also to the would be travelers. For example the River Niger of Nigeria remained a source of information about Nigeria to the western world for several centuries. 

However, such accounts were meant for posterity unlike today's travel writing which has a market among the contemporary travelers. The development of organized tourism and its becoming a major economic activity has made travel writing an increasingly specialized area. Hence, we use the term writing for tourism. The emphasis is more and more on providing information. The readers want it not only for the sake of knowledge or interesting reading but also for utilizing it during their own tourist activities. The market in this specialized area is constantly increasing as more and more of media (print as well as electronic) incorporates travel and tourism as a part of its presentation. For example, more newspapers, especially the economic ones allot at least one weekly page for travel and leisure. 

There are journals that specialize in tourism and travel; all leading hotels and airlines have their own magazines; tourism departments or corporations have their magazines or newsletters. Holiday serials are a favorite viewing on the television.

Although the emphasis here is on the visuals, yet one needs a script that is the staple of the print media. Promotion literature in the form of shopping directories, brochures, advertisements and commissioned writing is common to all the constituents of tourism industry-travel agents, tour operators, hotels, shops and emporiums, airlines, transporters, tourism organizations etc. Thus, in the contemporary world there is ample scope in the field of writing for tourism.

 

Pre-Requisites, Tools and Qualities of Writing on Tourism and Travel

The basic requirements of travel writing are:

1. Lucidity

2. Capability for description

3. A keen sense of observation-especially of the environment.

 

A travel writer should always bear in mind that the write up would influence the reader to:

Undertake a journey to a particular destination,

1. Decide on the mode of travel,

2. Look for sources of entertainment,

3. Taste the cuisine, and

4. Spend money on shopping, etc.

Hence, it is not only the image of the writer at stake but also an individual's entire holiday and savings kept for this purpose. This makes the task of the writer more responsible.

 

Objectives of Writing on Tourism and Travel

Writing on tourism and travel has several objectives. Some of them are listed below:

1.   Motivating travel to a destination,

2.   Describing a destination,

3.   Cautioning the traveler,

4.   Analyzing government policies,

5.   Detailing the impacts,

6.   Asking for improvements,

7.   Making future predictions,

8.   Sharing experiences,

9.   Marketing and promotion,

10.        Recreating the past, and

11.        Providing information, etc.

 

These are linked to the:

1.           Target audience to be addressed, and

2.           The type of publication one is writing for.

The diversity of tourism constituents also segments the target audience. For example an article on "Wilderness Experience" or "The Atilogu Dancers" may get fewer readerships than "Picnic on Lekki Beach". A write up on Hotel Tariffs" or "Airlines Performance" may attract a larger readership than a piece on skiing. A writer has to be very clear about who is being addressed (target audience): Whether the write up is meant for a high budget tourist or for people of any particular age group or is meant for all.

 

Qualities for Writing for Tourism: Travel Writing 

The writer is both an information gatherer as well as provider. The information gathered through keen observation, personal experience, collection of data and reading of already published sources, etc. is communicated to the reader through the application of creativity, imagination and the capacity to communicate. In relation to this the following tips could be useful:

i. The writer should not be prejudiced; one should have an open mind while approaching the subject. Even if there are any pre-conceived ideas they have to be tested on the basis of ground realities. For example a foreign writer may start with the assumption that drinking water is not easily available. But today the ground reality is that bottled mineral water or portable water is available at practically every destination.

ii. A writer has to be observant even about what are generally left as minute matters. At times useful information emerges out of keen observation. Take the example of ethnic crafts. It is only keen observation that will disclose which ones are really ethnic and which ones are fake or replicas.

iii. A certain amount of preparatory effort is a must for any write up like reading about the place or theme to be covered. But this should not lead to a bias. Familiarizing oneself with the history, geography, culture etc. is another exercise in this regard.

iv. Constant updating of knowledge and information is a must for a writer. Providing outdated information in a write up would not help anyone. At times the writer has to be a researcher also.

v. Facts have to be vetted. For example civil disturbances are an obstacle to tourism. But in the Nigerian context foreign tourists have generally not been harmed.  

vi. Not everyone can write on everything. Hence, one should attempt to discover one’s own skills and interests keeping in view the limitations and abilities. The personal style of writing also has to be taken account of. For example hyperbole should be avoided, sentences should be short, simple words should be used and write up should be lively.

vii. Collated information gathered from various sources forms the basis of many write ups. It is always better for the writer to record personal experiences and assessment. This gives a stamp of authenticity to the account.

viii. Since visuals supplement the richness of a write up meaningful photographs and illustrations should be there. It is good for a writer to develop the skill of photography or else utilize the services of a professional.

ix. In many cases countries, tourism organizations, tour operators, hotels, etc. sponsor writers to promote their products. Here the writer has to be very cautious and should not venture into over statements, unqualified commendation or project product/services beyond what they actually are.

Besides these certain other qualities are related to specific themes and will he mentioned accordingly.

 

Writing for Tourism: Categories

As mentioned earlier writing for tourism involves writing for:

1.     Magazines.

2.     Newspapers.

3.     Journals

4.     Preparing brochures, posters, advertisements etc .

5.     Scripts for films, radio or television.

6.     Tourist’s aide like guides and shopping directories etc.

This includes informative articles, promotional literature, audio/video scripts and travel trade reporting the business.

 

Tourism writing can be broadly divided into the following categories:

1. Destinations and Themes

2. Cuisine  

3. Culture, Customs and History

4. Travel Industry and Organizations

5. Aviation and surface Transport

6. Social, Economic and Environmental Aspects of Tourism

7. Promotion Literature

8. Special Interests

 

1. Destinations and Themes

Writing on destinations is perhaps the most common form of writing in tourism industry, a destination can be taken to be a whole country, a part of it i.e. a city, beach, mountain, forest, village, -or even an helmet not to talk of monuments, temples, mosques, shrines, forts, palaces and in some cases even a hotel. An American writer can, for instance, choose to write on Nigeria as a single destination. Conversely a Nigerian can likewise make USA the subject for writing. The same American can also pick Lagos as the subject of destination writing while a writer visiting Abuja can devote his entire effort to the architectural aspects of the International Conference Centre or the Ecumenica Centre. Another writer may be fascinated by the people of Abuja and how the capital city has become a mini Nigeria inhabited, as it is, by Nigerians of all hues and cultural backgrounds. Fura De Nunu Damsel who carries lunch calabash for office goers could be a popular subject for foreign writers as part of the metropolis as a destination. The colonial architecture of Ibadan and Iseyin is a good subject for destination writing. A temple in Ibadan city with the exterior of St. Paul's Cathedral is a writer's delight as is the discovery that the majestic North and South Block complexes on the Raisina Hill have an older likeness in the South African capital of Pretoria. Destination writings can also cover nature's bounty, the scenic splendors of mountains, falls, rivers, sunset, forests, flora and fauna.

Writing on a destination can be all encompassing. Anything from a place to people, history, legend, monuments, buildings, temples, shrines, customs, dress, food, climate, accommodation, transport, shopping, entertainment, health, local systems of medicine, religion, cinema, life styles, parks, educational institutions, museums, sport, fashion and even the later day concern about environment, carrying capacity, and sustainable tourism. Tourist services too are a part of destination of his choice but also how to get there, where to stay, what and where to eat, what to wear and do's and don'ts.

As a matter of professional ethnic and responsibility to the readers a writer should not write about a destination which he has not visited.

Already published informative sources like guide books, brochures etc are to be used as secondary sources coupled with one's own experience.

Writer on destination could thus virtually cover anything and everything under the sun, but writing on them would involve specialized effort requiring more than general knowledge of a subject. For example, the Kaftan/Sanyan/Adire its place in society-both as a formal dress and a working woman's attire, its length, the fabrics used (cotton and dozens of varieties of silk, handlooms), regional varieties and so on. There are colours for auspicious occasions and for mourning. Similarly one could pick on the theme of wild life of a whole country or what is found in one national park or it could be one particular species even an extinct one and, how the white throated monkey could be through back to the wilds of Nigeria learning from the fascinating story of a South African woman, Ann Van Dyke who by breeding 400 cheetahs in the last fifteen years has virtually scored this animal off the list of endangered species are gearing themselves up to provide golf courses for visitors who find it cheaper to indulge in this sport in other destinations that is in their own country. The Japanese are a classic example. Gold is also becoming an integral part of travel itineraries and this country has the distinction of possessing the world's highest golf course (at 1200 feet in Leh) or one of the oldest (in Calcutta.) And there is much scope for writing on the upcoming greens in the neighborhood of Delhi, mostly Haryana. Marine life around India's long coastline or exotic islands like the Andamans and Lakshadweep could be another choice for theme writings as could be life or life styles of the tribal people. Fashions and jeweler, Nigeria cosmetics, flowers, trees, leaves and herbs are among the wide spectrum to choose from. Architecture offers an, unending area of writing. It could cover periodic architecture, foreign influences, engineering contributions (such as at Ellora), sculpture, inlay work, design elements, ancient technologies of plumbing hygiene and beating the elements.

Hotels could be another choice for theme writing. There are historic hotels like the Waldorf Astoria in New York, the Taj in Bombay's (built for Indians when they were not allowed to enter British run properties) or the Ashok in Delhi which has been a home to many a head of state and other celebrities. Gardens and parks like the Moghul gardens also make an excellent subject. Keeping these examples in mind you can pick such themes in the areas you reside or regions you have travelled. Such examples abound in Nigeria too like Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Lagos, the Eko Le Meridien, Jos Gardens and the Yankari National Park in Bauchi state.  

 

2. Cuisine

After accommodation, food is the most important need of a traveler. Some cuisines can be special attractions and add to the destination pull of a country while the absence of certain cuisine could be a deterrent to travel. The Japanese for instance, tend to avoid visiting places where there are no restaurants specializing in their cuisine. Many destinations have gone out of their way to set up Japanese eateries to increase the flow of countries available in its eating houses from Mexican to Brazilian, French, Chinese and even Indian. New Delhi now boasts of good Chinese, Thai, French, Italian and the lone Japanese restaurant. Again, in these areas of specialized writing one can write on the history and development of various cuisines, culinary skills, chefs who have acquired reputations of master craftsmen, famous and good restaurants, and the joys of eating out, health foods, fitness foods and diets. Recipes and cook books help improve the quality of life. There is hardly a newspaper of magazine in India which does not have a regular food column featuring a restaurant, a chef, a recipe or something new in fitness food. The role of Indian spices in adding to taste, flavor and presentation of food has unlimited scope for writing. No television network can afford to miss out on a serial on food with the additional advantage of demonstration of how to do it over the print media. Organising food festivals of national cuisines is a common practice of hotels and tourism promoters providing citizens with an opportunity to sample and enjoy culinary skills of other parts of the country; it is also a feast for the food writer. International food festivals are even greater hits a leading chain once brought out French chefs to India not on a conventional trip to give Indians a taste of good- French delicacies but for the European culinary experts to get introduced to Indian cooking. The innovation did not stop there. The chefs were accompanied by half a dozen of the world's best known food critics who went back and wrote volumes on the finer points of Indian cooking, spices, vegetables and meats. Some Nigerian special cuisines that could be of interest to tourist to Nigeria like the examples mentioned above, are: vegetables of various types, edikang-ikong, atanma, afia-efere (water soup), editan, ogbono, egusi, okazi, onugbu and oha.

 

3. Culture, Customs and History

Although Nigeria is emerging as a multi-appeal destination drawing a growing number of tourists who prefer beaches and adventure sports, the bulk of travelers come for a cultural experience. This country is perhaps unique in having preserved a continuing civilization of over five thousand years. While visitors to Athens, Rome and Cairo can only see the ruins of once great civilizations, in Nigeria they can experience a continuity of thousands of years. As one writer put it; in Nigeria you can see several centuries living together, perhaps in traditions preserved and practiced with only minor changes. Take for example marriage. The rituals have remained exactly the same after thousands of years. Only the oil lamp has been replaced by the electric bulb.

Communication is the life of any service-oriented industry. This maxim holds good of tourism too. There are several means of communicating with an itinerant tourist, but writing is certainly the most commonly used mode. Here you have a wide range of subjects to write on and also have ample choice of the place where you may like your piece to appear in print form. We strongly emphasize that writing for tourism purposes must arouse interest in a prospective traveler about the destination as well as its additional attractions. In most cases a firsthand experience becomes very useful in such writings. You add to it a certain lucidity of language and style and be confident to will a tourist. Remember the following key words:

Aviation: Cuisine: Customs: Destination: Ethics: Itinerant: Recipe:

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