Ways of Seeing, Ways of Being

Representing the Voices of Tourism

by Maurizio Gotti (Volume editor) Stefania Maci (Volume editor) Michele Sala (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 472 Pages
Series: Linguistic Insights, Volume 228


The aim of this volume is to give voice to the various and different perspectives in the investigation of tourism discourse in its written, spoken, and visual aspects. The chapters particularly focus on the interaction between the participants involved in the tourism practices, that is the promoters of tourist destinations, on the one hand, and tourists or prospective tourists on the other. In this dialogic interaction, tourism discourse, while representing and producing tourism as a global cultural industry, shows it to be on the move. Language movement in the tourism experience is here highlighted in the various methodological approaches and viewpoints offered by the investigations gathered in this volume.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction (Stefania M. Maci / Michele Sala)
  • Multimodal Representations of the Tourist Experience
  • The Language of Tourism in New Travel Guides: Discursive Identities and Narratives (Maria Vittoria Calvi)
  • Digital Travel Videos as Ways of Visiting Basilicata: A Multimodal Genre Analysis (Sabrina Francesconi)
  • Tourism Websites: Scrolling and ‘Strolling’ through Capri.net (Lucia Abbamonte / Flavia Cavaliere)
  • Go Before They’re Gone. A Comparative Analysis of Online Travel Coupon Advertising (Maria Cristina Aiezza)
  • Digital Communication in Tourism
  • Meaning-making in Web 2.0 Tourism Discourse (Stefania M. Maci)
  • Newsworthy or Market-oriented? Analysing the Genre of Web-mediated Tourism Press Releases for Rhetorical Move Structure and Communicative Purpose(s) (Girolamo Tessuto)
  • ‘A Luxury You Can Afford’ High-End Tourism in Travel Blog Discourse (Maria Cristina Paganoni)
  • Hotel Responses to Online Complaints (Chalita Yaemwannang / Issra Pramoolsook)
  • Age-specific Tourism: Representations of Seniors in the Institutional Discourse of Tourism (Kim Grego)
  • Child-free Tourism Discourse between Social Changes and Ethical Concerns (Alessandra Vicentini)
  • Cultural Aspects Related to the Language of Tourism
  • Accessibility through the Staging of Authenticity in Tourist Discourse (Luisanna Fodde)
  • The Discursive Construction of a ‘Dark Tourism’ Destination: The Touristification of Ground Zero and the Commodification of Tragedy on the 9/11 Memorial and Museum Website (Paola Catenaccio)
  • Disseminating the Florentine Cultural Heritage through Travel Blogs (Giuliana Diani)
  • The Cultural Side of Venice: Institutional Promotion to Mainstream Tourists and Museum Buffs (Daniela Cesiri / Francesca Coccetta)
  • Conveying a Destination Image: A Case Study of Rome (Judith Turnbull)
  • The Language of Tourism in Social Media
  • ‘No one can be the invisible tourist – but we like that you are trying’: An Analysis of the Language of Sustainable Tourism (Donatella Malavasi)
  • Ways of Representing and Promoting Padua: Professional, Novice and (Non-)Native Voices (Erik Castello)
  • The Discourse of US Hotel Websites: Variation through the Interruptibility of Lexical Bundles (Miguel Fuster-Márquez)
  • The Tourist Experience: A Semantic Prosody Analysis (Jorge Soto Almela)
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Series index

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1.   Representing the voices of tourism

The United Nation Tourism World Organization (UNTWO) defines tourism as a “socio-economic phenomenon whose expansion and profound diversification have contributed towards developing it into one of the fastest increasing economic sectors in the world”.1 Similarly, the document issued by the European Commission A renewed EU Tourism Policy: Towards a stronger partnership for European Tourism denotes Tourism “as a cross-cutting sector, involving a big diversity of services and professions, linked to many other economic activities and policy areas.”2 Tourism is, therefore, a well-established social practice involving various economic fields, whose products (the holiday packages) are the only items in the world sold to a public that cannot try them before buying them. Consumers can only gain pre-purchase knowledge of the product through language. In other words, the gap existing between the expectations the buyers have of the holiday and the reality (the destination) is filled by language (Maci 2013). Indeed, the tourist industry bases its marketing process on stereotypical structures which, through language, are rendered into ideas, values, as well as symbols, and whose purposes are to enchant, attract, and shape imagination, interpretations, and memories by means of cognitive and emotional processes expressed through discourses. In this process, language transforms tourism products and presents them as genres, ranging from the most traditional ones, such as brochures and guide-books, to the ← 9 | 10 → most innovative ones, such as those pertaining to e-communication in social media.

In numerous discussions about language in tourism literature, language has often been treated as a tool in overcoming communicative cross-cultural barriers (Geoffroy 2007; Gao 2012). On the contrary, as highlighted by Thurlow and Jaworski (2010:12), there is a need to “start mapping the globalizing processes and discursive strategies that underpin the symbolic economy and language ideologies of tourism more generally”, and this should be connected with a broader discussion in linguistics about cultural change and global mobility. In this sense, the role of language in the representation of tourism destinations has been described in various studies (Drozdzewski 2011; Thurlow/ Jaworski 2011; Ploner 2013).

As Calvi (this volume) claims, the large number of texts created in the tourism sector satisfies the tourists’ need for information on the one hand and, on the other, achieves the tourism industry’s goals. While such texts are constructed by exploiting a persuasive and evaluative language, to such an extent that the language of tourism has acquired an independent status within the frame of specialised discourse (Gotti 2003, 2006), the tourism industry has always moulded our perceptions of the tourism destination in order to build a ‘destination image’ (Tasci/Gartner 2007) matching the tourists’ expectations with the marketing interests of the tourism industry.

This linguistic construction of the destination image mirrors Dann’s (1996) authenticity and strangehood approaches. In the former case, tourism discourse achieves authenticity through explicit expressions (MacCannel 1979; Dann 1996) which describe what is ‘native’ and ‘typical’ of the destination – this is, though, a fictitious picture of the real destination, greatly manipulated and commercialised for the sake of the tourism industry. In the latter case, the desire for what is new and exotic can be seen in the descriptions of places as ‘untouched’, ‘remote’, ‘unspoilt’, ‘unknown’, all of which contribute to the image of uniqueness and strangeness of the offered destination.

To construct an ‘authentic’ destination, the support of a similar ‘authentic’ visual is needed. The relationship between text and visual is fundamental in tourism discourse and its exploration in tourism ← 10 | 11 → communication has been undertaken by multimodal theory, as developed within systemic-functional linguistics (Kress / van Leeuwen 2004). The investigation of this relationship has advanced to encompass the new developments offered by globalisation and digitalisation, where not only multimodal resources are fully employed, but also social media are exploited in order to enable interactive roles between the tourism industry and tourists themselves.

Language and visuals reconstruct a reality – the destination to which the tourist travels virtually (Maci 2013) through space as well as through time, a time which is concealed as everything is described in a never-ending present: the historical present used to describe the destination is an invitation for the reader to be involved in the activity. The denial of time is a strategy that reinforces timelessness and crystallises the beauty of the location for eternity.

In this ethereal absence of time, Thurlow (2016) underlines the constant presence of elitism in society and, therefore, tourism: as a daily accomplishment at the core of social discrimination, we are constantly invited to see elitism as a desirable privilege and to imagine ourselves being elite. In this sense, tourism discourse enhances both the promotion of luxury tourism and the normalisation of privilege/ inequality in elite tourism.

It is the aim of this volume to give voice to the various and different perspectives in the investigation of tourism discourse in its written, spoken, and visual aspects, in the interaction between the participants involved in the tourism practices, that is the promoters of tourist destinations, on the one hand, and tourists or prospective tourists on the other. In this dialogic interaction, tourism discourse, while representing and producing tourism as a global cultural industry, shows it to be on the move (Thurlow/Javowski 2011). Language movement in the tourism experience is here highlighted in the various methodological approaches and viewpoints offered by the investigations gathered in this volume. The following section illustrates the organisation of this volume, which attempts to reproduce the many complex and at the same time fascinating facets of tourism discourse. ← 11 | 12 →

2.   Contents of the Volume

This volume organises the various chapters into four sections, each assessing a specific aspect of tourist communication, such as the multimodal representations of the tourist experience, digital communication in tourism, the cultural aspects related to the language of tourism and the language of tourism in social media.

2.1.   Multimodal representations of the tourist experience

In the opening chapter, VITTORIA CALVI investigates the discourse of tourism in online travel guides and the changes brought about by the spread of tourism communication on the Internet, which has increasingly blurred the boundaries between informative, promotional and directive genres. This analysis looks at the shift in the textualisation of travel guides which have moved from a conventional directive and vertical model, characterised by an impersonal style and the accuracy of description, to a more engaging and interactive style. Analysing six Spanish online travel guides, the author investigates the influence played on these textualisations by the informative potential offered by the Internet, which can be considered as a ‘diffused guide’ and which, by making all kinds of tourism-related material available, undermines the conventional role of expert held in the past by authors of traditional travel guides, and favours the adoption of different discursive identities for the writers in order to make the texts impactful.

The chapter by SABRINA FRANCESCONI explores the processes of meaning construction in multimodal environments by focusing specifically on the genre of digital travel videos promoting tourism in Basilicata, a region in Southern Italy. Through a methodology drawing from both genre analysis and multimodal analysis, assessing respectively text-external and text-internal features, this study examines 18 video texts directed by various artists participating in a competition launched by Basilicata Destination Marketing Organization. Such digital texts are found to be an innovative form of promotion in that, while being the outcome of a process of interdiscursive hybridisation ← 12 | 13 → combining promotional purposes and informative concerns with narrative resources (storytelling) and/or dialogic and interactive representations (interviews), they also constitute an intersemiotic genre exploiting both linguistic material and impactful visuals.

LUCIA ABBAMONTE and FLAVIA CAVALIERE look at tourism websites by concentrating on the specific case of one of the most engaging and iconic websites dedicated to Capri (namely, www.capri.net/it) for the purpose of seeing how this genre represents its destinations. Using an approach stemming from Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis, but also including elements drawn from ecolinguistics, this chapter investigates the ways the main lines of appeal concerning Capri are textualised (i.e. landscape, celebrities, cuisine, luxury, shopping, ancient historical places, and cultural memory). The analysis presented here is two-fold: on the one hand, it shows how informativeness and persuasion are blended through a hierarchy of foregrounding and, on the other, it is concerned with the interplay of verbal texts and images, pointing out how they pragmatically co-determine the meaning of the whole text.

MARIA CRISTINA AIEZZA examines travel coupon advertising, a widely used e-marketing tool used to promote products and services on intermediary e-commerce platforms (namely, Groupon, LivingSocial, Wowchers and Groupalia). The chapter presents a contrastive analysis of coupons promoting local tourist destinations in the USA, the UK and Italy, highlighting the stylistic and structural differences between travel coupons and coupons advertising other kinds of deals (e.g. restaurants, treatments, courses) and noticing in the former a higher degree of intertextuality, more informative and instructional sections and a tendency towards a more direct appeal. The investigation also compares the textualisation of national holidays in the three countries, identifying culture-specific elements in terms of motifs and descriptions in relation to the different focus given to specific attractions in the aim of seducing the reader by representing various paths of senses and interests.

2.2.   Digital communication in tourism

The second section opens with a chapter by STEFANIA MACI which discusses how tourism discourse constructs meaning on Web 2.0 social ← 13 | 14 → networks by considering the way the interplay between the tourism industry and consumers is textualised and represented in new interactive genres. More specifically, the focus is on the communicative strategies used by two airline companies and how they exploit the assets and interactional possibilities made available by Facebook to promote services and advertise events, thus creating texts which allow for and require interaction on the part of the users. The discussion highlights, on the one hand, the mechanisms through which consumers acquire the role of prosumers (i.e. being actively involved in the manipulation of the texts and in the processes of meaning negotiation) and, on the other, the ways airlines enhance and control their own identity by deciding whether and when to take part in the development and implementation of such texts (usually to counterclaim or mitigate negative comments).

Tourism has become pervasive in a variety of communicative situations and the communication activity via websites has expanded access to domain-specific genres such as tourism press releases beyond the circles of professional journalists. For this reason, the chapter by GIROLAMO TESSUTO examines this new genre in order to trace its rhetorical move structure and communicative purposes. Based on a corpus of press releases published on the ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) website, the investigation looks specifically into the ways the genre’s structure and purposes are codified in linguistic and rhetorical terms. Evidence is given of the great impact that a combination of informative and promotional communicative purposes has on the linguistic and discoursal features of news press releases, which aim to create awareness of the organisation/brand in relation to its products and services alongside marketing (advertising and sponsorship) communication strategies and online public relations.

MARIA CRISTINA PAGANONI investigates luxury travel blogs through an ethnographic and discourse-centered approach. While the luxury sector is deeply affected by the global financial crisis and luxury product sales are facing the sluggish growth of new markets, analysts claim that luxury tourism is on the rise. On this basis, the chapter observes how the discursive practices and textual performances of travel blogging bring about and respond to major changes in the travel and tourism industry. The analysis indicates that while travel blogs display a range of inclusive features – being more informal, personal and ← 14 | 15 → experience-based than the traditional genres of tourism discourse –, luxury travel bloggers adopt the same elitist stance typical of high-end travel. The main difference lies in the rhetorical organisation of their cultural narratives and the way of representing the constant discursive negotiation between brands and the new breed of tourists that aspire to distinction.

In the tourism business, online information – even in the form of positive and negative feedback from tourists – can affect customers’ decision-making process. Therefore, handling such comments, especially negative ones, becomes an important promotional tool of reputation management for product/service providers. CHALITA YAEMWANNANG and ISSRA PRAMOOLSOOK study the interactive genre of online complaints focusing on the specific case of twelve 4–5 star hotels in Bangkok, Thailand, to see, firstly, the type of complaint hotels choose to respond to and, secondly, the moves and their sequence pattern in hotel responses to online complaints. Results point to the fact that only complaints containing several negative issues tend to be answered, and the structure of such responses may combine general moves, like opening and closing pleasantries, to more strategic ones, such as apologies for source of troubles, expressions of gratitude, reference to customer reviews, invitation for a second visit, and explanation of an issue.

KIM GREGO discusses age-specific tourism and the way seniors are represented in institutional tourism discourse. The chapter adopts a Critical Discourse Analysis approach to investigate linguistic issues connected with marketing tourism for the over-60s – especially in terms of definition, others’ and self-representation – in three texts covering the same topic (the 2013 EU Senior Tourism call), communicated by different types of actors (the European Commission and two institutional websites), through different genres, with different aims and intended audiences. The investigation looks at the linguistic strategies which are employed to address this audience within institutional and corporate settings, evaluating power relations connected with the social positioning of this target group. The chapter also highlights the increasing importance of the web for this type of communication since the digital skills of elderly people are on the increase and their spending potential for leisure activities is also growing. ← 15 | 16 →

ALESSANDRA VICENTINI analyses how tour operators frame the discourse of child-free tourism by examining a corpus of texts from tour operators’ websites and then comparing the findings with the way the ethical aspects of the debate concerning children in tourism is tackled by the media. The chapter shows that tourism websites tend to employ linguistic resources which are distinctive of tourism discourse (evaluation, positive lexicon, ego-targeting, etc.) strategically combined with lexical traits indicating luxury, exclusivity and tranquillity. Conversely, the media tend to represent this new tourism trend through hedging strategies, quotations from the different parties involved, polarised lexicon including negative terms to refer to children, and different morphological realisations (compounds, complex words by affixation) to name new realities. Child-free tourism discourse, thus, loses its specialised and promotional character when filtered by the media, which instead emphasise ethical concerns that child-free tourism can raise.

2.3.   Cultural aspects related to the language of tourism

The first chapter of this section looks into the ways the idea of authenticity is constructed and represented in creating accessible tourist discourse. Analysing the language of tourist guides, LUISANNA FODDE describes how authenticity in tourism discourse is conveyed in the construction of tourist identity and how accessibility is determined and established in the portrayal of a destination identity through such resources as interpersonal markers, quotations, comparisons, and evaluative forms, exploited to stress the cultural uniqueness of a given destination. The investigation then proceeds to examine the case of two particular tourist destinations (a religious festival and the murals of a remote village in Sardinia, Italy) for the purpose of showing how narration and the narrative paradigm can be employed in tourist discourse to enhance the participative role of the visitors in the construction of the identity and memory representation of a community.

The chapter by PAOLA CATENACCIO analyses the discursive construction of ‘dark tourism’ destinations – that is, sites of disasters and tragic events – by examining the representation of 9/11 and the ways this event is discursively constructed on the 9/11 Memorial and ← 16 | 17 → Museum website. Particular attention is devoted to the rhetorical strategies used to deal with problematic and controversial aspects concerning the touristification of Ground Zero (namely, its commodification and its being presented/perceived as a tourist attraction). Consideration is also given to the implicit ideology underpinning the configuration of the Memorial and Museum as having a memorialising and historicising purpose, thus being openly meant to foster understanding. The discussion underlines that, despite framing the visitors’ identity discursively as apolitical beings, by emphasising emotions over critical understanding the website biases interpretation of the events rather than favouring critical apprehension.

GIULIANA DIANI explores how the image of Florence is represented by American travel bloggers. The chapter combines corpus and discourse-analytic perspectives in the aim of investigating the cultural-specific aspects that represent the Florentine cultural heritage better to American travellers through an analysis of the lexis employed to construct and transmit it. The analysis, based on a pilot study of 55 travel blogs, shows that art and gastronomy are the domains of experience that American travellers mostly focus upon in their subjective narrations about Florence, and references to such domains are typically found in recurrently employed evaluative expressions. This study indicates that evaluation is one of the key features used/adopted (?) to represent Florence, by which American tourists not only express their comments about the city, but also point out what is potentially desirable for other visitors.

In their chapter, DANIELA CESIRI and FRANCESCA COCCETTA examine the English version of two institutional websites promoting Venice to mainstream tourists and museum buffs (respectively Venezia Unica and Musei Civici di Venezia). The study offers a linguistic and visual analysis of the web pages, exploring how language and images contribute to the effectiveness of the communicative techniques used to attract prospective visitors. Differences between the two versions are also highlighted. In particular, in one of them (Venezia Unica) the use of general terms is seen to contrast with an overall redundant style, while the use of images and their relation with the surrounding text meet the requirements of the website’s informative function. In the second case ← 17 | 18 → (Musei Civici di Venezia), instead, the language is in line with the website’s descriptive function, characterised by the combination of general and technical terms that are manageable by its target public. This descriptive function is also reinforced by the extensive use of images (even when visuals are not strictly related to the text).

JUDITH TURNBULL explores the linguistic strategies used to construct a destination image, which is a multidimensional concept formed by cognitive and affective evaluations of a place. The aim of the chapter is to investigate the role played by language in shaping the image of Rome as a destination. Applying the Appraisal Theory to a corpus containing four different Internet genres (namely, newspapers, tour operators’ websites, travel websites and travel blogs), the analysis concentrates specifically on the use of two of the ATTITUDE sub-systems, that is AFFECT and APPRECIATION. The findings show to what extent the image of Rome projected in the texts is romanticised and stereotyped and how distinctively each genre contributes towards establishing the destination image in its own peculiar way, owing to its specific informative concerns and requirements, its pragmatic function and communicative objectives.

2.4.   The language of tourism in social media

The increase in public concern over sustainability issues has led businesses to behave ethically and to communicate and demonstrate their integrity. Tourism is no exception to this trend. As such, new forms of tourism, prefixed with sustainable and eco-, have proliferated in recent times. Set against this background, the chapter by DONATELLA MALAVASI analyses the discourse of sustainable tourism and investigates some common strategies deployed to promote responsible tourist destinations. With the support of corpus linguistics tools, the websites of the most sustainable destinations in Europe are analysed in a selection of recurrent content and function words. The study of frequent items in their phraseology suggests that the promotion of responsible tourism derives from the interplay between patterns which are typical of ‘traditional’ tourism promotion (e.g. emphatic language, emotional formulae referring to authenticity, attractiveness, etc.), on one side, and ← 18 | 19 → sustainability-related tools (e.g. expressions describing commitment and dedication to the environment, local communities and visitors), on the other.

ERIK CASTELLO examines tourism texts about the city of Padua (Italy) produced by different writers, respectively, internationally renowned publishing houses, local tourist boards, EFL learners and novice native writers. Investigating specifically designed corpora collecting these types of writing, the chapter focuses on the use of adjectives and, more precisely, the distribution of tokens and types across the corpora, the creative and clichéd uses, the syntactic patterns in which they occur, and their semantic and pragmatic features. The analysis shows how differently the various writers employ these modifiers, pointing out that international publishing houses make use of a wider range of adjectives in terms of both frequency and connotation, whereas the other writers, owing also to the different contexts of text production, use a more restricted variety of adjectives (usually the most common and positively connoted ones) also resorting to non-standard or even erroneous forms. The chapter also discusses such findings and their implications for the purpose of teaching English for tourism.

MIGUEL FUSTER-MÁRQUEZ explores the phraseology typically found in US hotel websites to promote their services. In order to facilitate the cognitive processing of the meaning and boost pragmatic impact, the discourse of eHospitality platforms tends to resort to recognisable sequences of words in order to codify meanings effectively, although with a varying degree of mutability. Focusing on the phenomenon of lexical bundles, and investigating a corpus of hotel websites compiled in the years 2011–2014 at the University of Valencia (Spain), the chapter examines the level of interruptibility of these preconstructed phrases in relation to certain factors, namely phraseological constrains (for instance, the use of fixed expressions) and semantic requirements such as additional meanings to appear within the lexical frame of the relevant bundle in order to boost elements in their referential discursive function.

JORGE SOTO ALMELA examines the ways in which linguistic and prosodic resources are strategically used to seduce readers and turn possible clients into actual tourists. He assumes that in tourism, promotion ← 19 | 20 → language is the privileged tool for attracting clients and arousing expectations as to the prospective destination, and that such expectations are elicited and modelled after the anticipated experience of the destinations being sponsored (that is, what the visitor is going to feel, see, hear, taste and smell once there). His chapter analyses the way the word experience and its possible collocates are employed in Internet tourism campaigns to provide a cognitive framework for the users through which a positive semantic environment can be established and sensorial impressions and sense-based emotions represented.


Dann, Graham 1996. The Language of Tourism. A Sociolinguistic Perspective. Oxford: CAB International.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (July)
tourism discourse digital communication language for specific purposes
Bern, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 453 pp., 2 b/w ill., 43 coloured ill., 44 b/w tables, 9 graphs

Biographical notes

Maurizio Gotti (Volume editor) Stefania Maci (Volume editor) Michele Sala (Volume editor)


Title: Ways of Seeing, Ways of Being