The Perception of Nature in Travel Promotion Texts

A Corpus-based Discourse Analysis

by Ida Ruffolo (Author)
©2015 Thesis XII, 148 Pages
Series: Linguistic Insights, Volume 201


Given the consolidated effects of the greening process on the tourism industry, this volume investigates the relationship between three areas of research – the natural environment, tourism and discourse –, and how this relationship is affected by and affects society as a whole. In particular, the book highlights the central role of language in constructing eco-friendly tourist sites. Since the images associated to nature are various, this study examines the uses of nature and explores how the terms nature and natural are constructed within the texts. The research identifies how nature is linguistically defined and constructed by advertisers in travel promotion texts in order to attract potential ‘green’ tourists. The study also analyses the promotion of protected areas to verify the extent to which these areas meet the criteria on sustainable tourism set by the World Tourism Organization.
By adopting a corpus-based discourse analysis perspective which combines both qualitative and quantitative approaches, the book unravels the complex interrelationship between the environment, tourism and advertising.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • 1 Introduction
  • 1.1 Background to and purpose of the study
  • 1.2 Reasons for choosing the tourism sector
  • 1.3 Research focus and outline of context
  • 2 Theoretical Background
  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.2 Defining Discourse
  • 2.2.1 Analyzing environmental discourse in the media
  • Identifying the construction of nature in advertisements
  • 2.2.2 Analyzing the social phenomenon of Tourism
  • Definition and brief history
  • Sustainable Tourism
  • Recognizing the status of the discourse of tourism and its implications
  • 2.3 Environment, Tourism and Advertising: A complex interaction
  • 2.4 Theoretical Background of the Methodological Approach
  • 2.4.1 Discourse Analysis
  • 2.4.2 Corpus Linguistics
  • 2.4.3 Corpus-based discourse analysis
  • 3 Research Framework
  • 3.1 Research aims
  • 3.2 Building up a corpus of travel promotion texts
  • 3.3 Combining Corpus Linguistics to Discourse Analysis
  • 3.3.1 The quantitative approach: Collocational analysis
  • 3.3.2 The qualitative contribution
  • Categories of nature
  • Functions of nature
  • Guidelines of sustainable tourism
  • 4 The Perception of Nature in the TPT Corpus
  • 4.1 Introductory remarks
  • 4.2 Analysis
  • 4.2.1 Quantitative investigation
  • 4.3 Identifying the linguistic and social construction of nature
  • 4.3.1 Accessible Wild Nature
  • 4.3.2 Untamed Nature
  • 4.3.3 Tamed Nature
  • 4.3.4 Artificial Nature
  • 4.3.5 Discussion
  • 4.4 Functions of nature
  • 4.4.1 The Recreational function
  • 4.4.2 The Promotional function
  • 4.4.3 The Preservative function
  • 4.4.4 The Educational function
  • 4.4.5 The Aesthetic function
  • 4.4.6 The Global economy function
  • 4.4.7 The Nourishing/nurturing function
  • 4.4.8 The Cultural function
  • 4.4.9 The Local economy function
  • 4.4.10 The Spiritual function
  • 4.4.11 Discussion
  • 4.5 The TPT Corpus and sustainable tourism
  • 4.5.1 Enhancing Economic Opportunity
  • 4.5.2 Protecting Natural and Cultural Heritage
  • 4.5.3 Enhancing the Quality of Life
  • 4.5.4 Discussion
  • 4.6 Concluding remarks
  • 5 Conclusion
  • 5.1 Main findings
  • 5.2 Implications for further research
  • References
  • Appendices
  • Index


The present book is a revised version of my PhD dissertation submitted to the University of Calabria in November 2011.

I am grateful for the help and support of many people while working on this volume. In addition to those scholars and colleagues who gave me feedback on my research, I give special thanks to the following people

  • – to Professor Carmen Argondizzo at the University of Calabria for her insights and for believing in me;
  • – to Dr Paul Thompson at the University of Birmingham for his insightful comments and generous guidance throughout the project;
  • – to Professor Maurizio Gotti, editor of Linguistic Insights, whose comments were very helpful in improving the manuscript;
  • – to Jean Jimenez at the University of Calabria for her support, useful comments and much needed encouragement.

Last but not least, a big thanks to my family and Mario for their constant and unwavering support while writing this book. ← xi | xii →

← xii | 1 →

1 Introduction

1.1 Background to and purpose of the study

This study reflects on the relationship between three areas of research, the natural environment, tourism and discourse, and how this relationship is affected by and affects society as a whole.

During recent years consumers have become increasingly aware of the need to protect the environment. In fact, after the 1980s, the threat of climate change and the depletion of resources began to appear more frequently in media coverage, leading to a rise in environmental consciousness (Harré, Brockmeier and Mühlhäusler, 1999; Holden, 2008). By the end of the 20th century the furore surrounding these issues had grown to such an extent that it has led the tourism industry to respond to them (Holden, 2008) through the implementation of ecotourism. As a consequence, the tourism industry is now taking advantage of the concept of nature travel, exploiting the term linguistically in its advertisements.

Indeed, tourist choices are increasingly influenced by sustainability considerations. There is empirical evidence that international tourists are interested in the social, cultural and environmental issues relevant to the destinations they visit and specifically seek for places that can provide them with the opportunity to experience nature in its most natural state (Stamou and Paraskevopoulos, 2006; Pollock, 2007), a place where they can renew themselves observing and learning about nature. This has led to the “growing specialist market impulse for ‘getting back to nature’” (Davidson, 2005: 30), shaping the perceptions regarding all those forms of tourism involved with nature, such as sustainable tourism, ecotourism or nature tourism, turning them into “a sponsored, commercialized cultural product” (Ryan, Hughes and Chirgwin, 1999: 150). ← 1 | 2 →

In line with this remark, I argue that social and economic actors, i.e., advertisers and tourism entrepreneurs, are exploiting the idea of nature by constructing it according to contemporary ideology and culture. The way places are discursively built as tourism destinations and their effect on the shaping of tourists’ expectations and experiences has been extensively examined (Urry, 1990; Dann, 1996; Stamou and Paraskevopoulos, 2006). Moreover, there is a large number of studies on the effect of the environmentalist movement on advertising (Howlett and Raglon, 1992; Banerjee, Gulas and Iyer, 1995; Hansen, 2002), and more specifically on the advertising of tourist destinations (Mühlhäusler and Peace, 2001; Peace, 2001; Stamou and Paraskevopoulos, 2006; Stamou, Lefkaditou, Schizas and Stamou, 2009).

Considering these studies in an attempt to combine their main argumentations, the present work revolves around two main areas of interest: linguistic and cultural. From a linguistic point of view, my interest concerns those lexical items which are used to describe the natural world and contribute to the construction of nature within travel promotion texts. For this reason the study adopts a corpus-based approach to identify any meaningful patterns that may be revealed through the analysis of frequency lists, collocates and concordance lines.

From the cultural and social point of view, my aim is to investigate how the surrounding context affects the use of language, providing a different understanding and interpretation of constructions of discourse, in this case of nature. Drawing on discourse analysis (Fairclough, 1995; Stubbs, 1996; Koteyko, 2006), this study aims at linking the above-mentioned perspective to a more accurate study of the role of language in the construction of nature in travel promotion texts. Discourse analysis involves investigating texts (i.e., instances of language in use) in order to understand how they create and reproduce social meanings which in turn shape people’s knowledge of the world. In particular, language itself is considered a form of social practice and texts are never discussed in isolation, but rather located within a wider, critical analysis of the surrounding (Stubbs, 1996; Wodak and Meyer, 2009). Thus, the idea of nature is analyzed along the lines of ideology and culture. ← 2 | 3 →

1.2 Reasons for choosing the tourism sector

Looking at the aforementioned mechanisms and drawing on a more personal interest, I have decided to focus the investigation on the concepts of ecotourism as a form of responsible and sustainable tourism. Specifically, the interest stems from several discussions and debates on the definition of ecotourism and eco-friendly destinations that took place in class with students majoring in Tourism1.

When asked to define the topic, the students provided the following definition: ‘Ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people’. Moreover, they underlined the fact that there are certain ecotourism principles that need to be followed: minimizing impact; raising environmental and cultural awareness and respect; providing positive experiences for both visitors and hosts; providing financial benefits for both conservation and local people; raising sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental and social climate.

Although the definition provided is valid with well defined principles, there is an aspect on which students fail to respond: how can a tourist (who is not an expert in this field of research) understand whether the destination chosen is truly eco-friendly? Is it a matter of trusting the travel agent? Or do tourists have to be informed on specific guidelines? I argue that tourism, like all other economic sectors, is exploiting the idea of nature and related words, such as green or eco-friendly, with the sole purpose of promoting or selling their product/destination, a tendency that is due to the increasing general interest and concern for the environment. After all, we are assailed by the idea of global warming, its effects on our lives and countries, and the necessity to return to a more natural lifestyle. These are concepts that are cleverly used by businesses to appear more attractive to the growing audience of conscientious travellers.


XII, 148
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (November)
tourism discourse society environment
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 148 pp.

Biographical notes

Ida Ruffolo (Author)

Ida Ruffolo is a Researcher in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Calabria, Italy, where she teaches EAP and ESP. She holds a PhD in Language analysis and interdisciplinary studies from the University of Calabria and an MA in ELT from the University of Reading (UK). Her main research interests are Corpus Linguistics, Discourse Analysis, and ESP, with particular interest in the language of tourism.


Title: The Perception of Nature in Travel Promotion Texts
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162 pages