TRAVEL

Controversial tourism campaigns around the world

A witty slogan. A scantily clad woman. An inviting tropical beverage. 

Tour agencies or companies around the world will try almost anything to increase visitors to their region. And while most travel slogans are pretty innocuous, there have been many that go too far. Cultural sensitivities vary depending on where you are.  What's considered politically correct in New Zealand, for example, may be offensive elsewhere. 

We've rounded up some tourism campaigns that had us shaking our heads.  Have a look.

  • 1. Air New Zealand's Sports Illustrated model commercial

    Air New Zealand's Sports Illustrated model commercial

    Air New Zealand

    Safety in Paradise was a head turner when it premiered this summer on Air New Zealand as an in-flight safety video, but not everyone felt that bikini-clad models were the best way to teach about air safety. After 11,000 people signed a petition citing the insensitivity of the provocative video--which featured models Christie Brinkley, Chrissy Teigen, Hannah Davis and Ariel Meredith-- Air New Zealand scrapped the campaign. At least it put a little known airline on the map. 

  • 2. All Nippon Airways "racist" commercial

    All Nippon Airways "racist" commercial

    YouTube

    In January, Japan's largest airline debuted a controversial 30-second ad that many claimed was racist. In the spot, two well-known Japanese comedians dressed as ANA employees. As one excitedly discusses the airline’s new destination offerings, he says to his companion, “You want a hug?" 

    When the other actor looks nonplussed, he states: "Such a Japanese reaction." He goes on to say, "Let's change the image of Japan."

    Then his companion dons a fluffy blonde wig and a fake, long nose. “Sure,” he says and the two roll their luggage down the airport hallway together.

    The airline apologized in the wake of the controversy and pulled the ad from TV. But it can still be seen here. 

  • 3. A very special map of a U.K. canal

    A very special map of a U.K. canal

    Canal & River Trust Charity Commission

    A quick glance at this map reveals why some would find this offensive. The unmistakable length and angle of this U.K. map that was handed out to tourists is pretty phallic but those behind it aren't too worried. 

    "It does look, as the poster on Faebook says, like a willy. We didn't notice it. Somebody should have seen it, I agree," Simon Salem from the Canal & River Trust told the BBC. But at least the map got people talking about the canal.

    "You could accuse of us of being a bit naive but canals are long, straight things, and when you draw a map it tends to be that sort of shape. If it gets at least one more person down to the canal then it has worked."

  • 4. Airbnb confusing new logo

    Airbnb confusing new logo

    Airbnb

    When popular home rental site Airbnb unveiled its new logo in June, the Internet immediately mocked its unusual shape and vaguely sexual design. Some people though it looked like a woman's privates. Others, a man's. Many thought somewhere in between. Either way, the travel site is still standing by its rebranding decision but only time will tell what really becomes of this odd symbol.

  • 5. Romania's tourism logo copycat scandal

    Romania's tourism logo copycat scandal

    romaniatourism.com

    Countries spend a lot of money to bring folks from other parts of the world to visit their best sites. According to the Telegraph, Romania plopped down $900,000 for this refreshing now logo for its tourism board. Yet, it bears a striking resemblance to computer animated image from a standard stock bank. Oh, well. At least it's not ugly. 

  • 6. Colorado's confuding WTF sticker

    Colorado's confuding WTF sticker

    Fruita.org

    Not many people have heard of Fruita --that was not until  a surprising 2012 sticker campaign put this outdoor-lovers paradise on the map. 'Welcome to Fruita' was abbreviated to 'WTF' and handed out as a bumper sticker. But most people have a different phrase in mind when seeing those three letters together and locals didn't take kindly to the new campaign. Poor taste? Maybe, but points to Fruita's tourism board for taking a risk.

  • 7. Hong Kong will take your breath away...literally.

    Hong Kong will take your breath away...literally.

    DiscoverHongKong.com

    The unfortunate timing of Hong Kong's slogan "Hong Kong will take your breath away"  contributed to this being a big tourism dud. Right before the outbreak of the SARS viral respiratory epidemic-- the tourism board revealed this phrase, meant to reflect the view from the many skyscrapers that are in  the city. Even without SARS, the phrase had a double meaning because Hong Kong suffers from high levels of air pollution year round. 

  • 8. Australia's Gold Coast offers a special package

    Australia's Gold Coast offers a special package

    Gaygoldcoast.com.au

    Australia has some of the world's most inviting beaches, but a 2012 campaign proved too revealing for some. In an effort to attract more gay clientele, Gold Coast Tourism (GCT) released a series of shots featuring men in relatively skimpy swimwear (nothing that would have been considered too scandalous on a woman). But a tight shot of a man in tighty-whities-- next to the line ‘Check out our impressive packages’-- proved to be too much and GCT retracted its campaign calling it an "incorrect interpretation of our marketing strategy," according to the Herald Sun.