Travel Writing for Tourism and City Branding: Urban Place-Writing Methodologies

by Linda Lappin
Travel Writing for Tourism and City Branding: Urban Place-Writing Methodologies

Travel Writing for Tourism and City Branding: Urban Place-Writing Methodologies
Authors: Charlie Mansfield and Jasna Potocnik Topler
ISBN: 978-1-032-014692-2
Routledge, 2023
168 pp.  pb. $27.00
Amazon | Publisher

Up until the 1960s, readers hankering for exotic places depended mainly on professional explorers and travel writers like Gertrude Bell, Alexandra David-Neel, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Lawrence Durrell, Peter Matthiessen, Jan Morris, Bruce Chatwin to blaze new trails and map out exciting territories to discover or only dream about. As travel became cheaper and more accessible to the middle classes and the young, the new guidebooks of the 1970s such as Douglas Brown’s groundbreaking hippy classic Overland to India, the first Lonely Planet Guides, and the Rough Guides of the 1980s made mind-blowing trips possible for an army of backpackers. Millions of people have followed Bruce Chatwin’s ramblings to Patagonia. Hundreds have purchased and restored old farmhouses in Italy, hoping to grab their own spot of Frances Mayes’ Tuscan sun. We long to find ourselves in new places and be transformed by them. Place is destiny, as Mayes has noted.

All places have their narratives woven through history, myth, the memories of their inhabitants and visitors, and also through film, photography, journalism, artworks, advertising, music, and literary texts. We are active participants in our landscapes and the memories we make in a place, our feelings, impressions, and stories become part of its physiognomy and atmosphere when transmitted to others. 

Travel writing and in particular literary travel writing captures, stores, and communicates alluring images of places, enticing or sometimes daring readers to go and find out for themselves. Often, as British travel writer Vernon Lee observed “The places for which we feel such love are fashioned before we see them by our wishes and fancy; we recognize rather than discover them in the world of reality.” Writing recreates the world and transforms reality.

Travel Writing for Tourism and City Branding: Urban Place-Writing Methodologies by Charlie Mansfield and Jasna Potocnik Topler, is a fascinating study of the contribution of literary travel writing to successful place-branding in today’s tourism industry, its economic impact on this sector, and its psychological impact on both creators and receivers of texts.

Since the year 2000, place-branding/city-branding has become a key component of destination management all over the globe. Tourism authorities, service providers, city-councils seek new ways to market and promote their destination sites to potential visitors and encourage inward investment. Chief among marketing strategies is the creation of content designed to celebrate the attractions of a place and define its unique heritage and identity: place-branding, offering potential employment to a multitude of content-creators required to get the job done. 

With the rise of Web 2 and the miracle of cell phones, wifi, and digital imaging, the attention of tourists/consumers has shifted away from traditional media with commissioned articles, travelogues, videos, fliers, and websites created by professionals to social media where the tourist has become a co-creator of the tourism experience and a content-creator through blogs, videos, posts, reviews, ratings, and interactions on inclusive social media platforms. Social media now play a crucial role in brand communication generated by consumers/tourists themselves, and have radically changed the way we plan, consume, record, and share our trips, and even the way we perceive ourselves as travelers. 

“Tourists no longer want to be passive observers,” the authors inform us. According to Mansfield and Potocnik Topler, tourists want to be physically, emotionally, and mentally engaged with the places they visit, gain new competencies and experience personal growth. Co-creation of the travel experience increases tourists’ satisfaction and also their level of expenditure, and as a result, the happier they are—the more they spend. 

Mansfield and Potocnik Topler claim that travel writing is an excellent means for tourists to achieve the satisfaction and growth they desire. “Travel writing is a ticket to well-being especially through the processes of self-discovery and identity development.” This growth derives not only from reading travel writing or using it as a guide for planning a trip or engaging with a place and its meanings but also from the personal practice of travel writing for oneself.

 In Travel Writing for Tourism and City Branding, the authors explore the writing process as a research tool and methodological practice, inviting readers to engage in place-writing strategies and apply them to their projects – whether personal, academic or commercial ones. The book outlines eight contemporary writing practices found in literary travel writing, examining texts by Frances Mayes, Patrick Modiano, Jan Morris, Monique Proulx, Roland Barthes. 

Though primarily intended as a textbook for students enrolled in travel writing courses within the context of tourism management/marketing programs, the authors’ overview of travel writing, their analysis of its grammatical, structural, and stylistic components, and of its storytelling and journaling strategies provides useful insights for all practitioners of the art. Their discussion of the economic importance of travel writing and the impact of technological innovation on its future development offer stimulating food-for-thought for anyone contemplating a career in this field. 

Among the thought-provoking concepts introduced in the book are:

The toureme Mansfield elsewhere has defined this critical term: “A toureme is the package of value and meaning that the visitor takes away from the holiday-making experience, related to a particular spot and will form the centre of any narrative related to friends and family after the holiday.”

The toureme is the radiant core of the story the traveler will tell upon returning.  For the experience to be a toureme however, it must be re-told, repackaged in a narrative for a reader. Learning to identify a toureme moment and capture it in narrative is necessary skill for beginning travel writers.

Twill—in textiles, twill is a weaving structure which produces a pattern of diagonal ridges, as in houndstooth of herringbone, consisting of repetitive rhyming points running throughout the design. The authors propose twill as a literary device in which recurring themes, objects, events rhyme with each other, forming patterns which reinforce meaning.

Of striking interest is the authors’ discussion of the DRAMMA model developed by D.B. Newman. This theoretical framework deals with the six psychological needs (detachment, relaxation, autonomy, mastery, meaning, and affiliation) which must be met in the recovery process from mental stress and demonstrates how leisure is vital to optimal functioning in our daily life. In an innovative analysis of Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun, Mansfield and Potocnik Topler apply the DRAMMA model to travel writing. They show how the expression and progressive fulfillment of the six needs underpins Mayes’ narrative, charting the phases of her personal growth towards greater well-being, which her readers come to share. 

Frances Mayes is an excellent example of place-branding and the power of literary travel writing in today’s tourism industry.  Although Mayes only set out to write a memoir of a personal experience, she ended up creating an empire. The irresistible picture of life in Tuscany she painted spurred millions not only to read her books and take their vacations in Tuscany, but to buy property abroad, redecorate their homes, and purchase a wide variety of consumer goods tinged with a Tuscan aura from food items, to kitchen equipment, clothing and accessories, building materials, textiles. It also compelled them to seek out service providers – hotels, restaurants, caterers, spas, tours, cruises, cooking and language classes, wedding planners, architects, fashion designers, garden designers and interior decorators, touched by the same Tuscan magic. Under the Tuscan Sun spawned nothing less than a global economic phenomenon benefiting millions in the tourist industry and echoing far beyond it.

By illustrating how Mayes’ narrative journey in Under the Tuscan Sun fulfills the six needs of well-being, Mansfield and Potocnik Topler may have discovered the key to Mayes’ mindboggling success and the secret to writing a satisfying narrative that may contribute to readers’ personal growth. Travel writers: take note!

Travel Writing for Tourism and City Branding: Urban Place-Writing Methodologies is an indispensable resource for teachers and students of travel-writing and a provocative read for anyone eager to understand the far-reaching if unexpected reverberations literary texts and creative writers may produce in global tourism today.

Review by Linda Lappin, author of The Soul of Place: A Creative Writing Workbook: Ideas and Exercises for Conjuring the Genius Loci and the novel Loving Modigliani: The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne.


Travel Writing for Tourism and City Branding: Urban Place-Writing Methodologies
Authors: Charlie Mansfield and Jasna Potocnik Topler
ISBN: 978-1-032-014692-2
Routledge, 2023
168 pp.  pb. $27.00
Amazon | Publisher

Last Updated on 21 January 2024 by Travel Writing World

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1 comment

Dr Charlie Mansfield 20 January 2024 - 7:34 am

Thank you for such a detailed and useful review of our book. It is very kind of you to include it in your online magazine. A free Teaching Pack is now available from the Google Play Bookstore to accompany the textbook. View it at the following address https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=-G55EAAAQBAJ

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