Tourism and fiction

“Japan’s smallest prefecture is aiming to attract more Thai tourists by sponsoring a series of romance novels set in the region.
The southern Kagawa Prefecture has teamed up with four Thai writers for the initiative, who have each penned love stories inspired by their travels around the area, the Kyodo news agency reports. The series has been named Kagawa, Let Love Lead, and was launched at Thailand’s National Book Fair in Bangkok.”
From BBC

Tourists following books are not a new phenomenon. People need to recharge, go away from their daily routine. They can travel to places, or “visit” them through literature, or both.

“The urge to get away, to travel, blends the phenomenon of escapism into the world of fiction. For literary tourists the primal source of escapism comes from the novels they read, inciting the desire to visit the place mentioned in the books. Thus, the ‘derived escapism’ transcends from literature into tourism. The illusion of the fictional world is perpetuated into the real locations used to attract avid readers and cinema buffs alike.”
(from Journeys Beyond Pages: The Use of Fiction in Tourism)


Literary tourism (visiting places associated with a literary work or its creator) have been around for a long time. According to Frommer’s, “Literary tours probably started in the fifth century B.C. with the Greek writer and historian Herodotus in his seminal work The Histories, which features magical accounts of ancient Egypt during the Ptolemaic period. It inspired thousands of Greek and later Roman citizens with means, to visit the shores of the Nile River in search of great wonders.”

Tourism fiction, however, is a new genre, where tourism does not follow famous works of fiction, but a work of fiction is written to attract tourists to specific places. An example that comes to mind is the Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy by Nora Roberts. The three romance novels are set in her Inn BoonsBoro, a historic inn that combines “warmth and welcome of a bed and breakfast” with “the luxury of a boutique hotel”. As in every romance, people find love in the Inn BoonsBoro novels. And with guest rooms having names such as “Jane and Rochester” (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte), “Elizabeth and Darcy” (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen), and “Eve and Roarke” (In Death novels by J.D. Robb, aka Nora Roberts), one is tempted to believe that staying there, they might land in a romantic fiction.


Nora Roberts in front of Inn BoonsBoro

Tourists interested in somewhat less perfect destinations are advised to look at other genres. First you need to get to your destination. For most of us, this means airports. If you imagine a heartwarming experience, read this:

“It now transpired that the man in front of her didn’t actually have a ticket at all, and the argument then began to range freely and angrily over such topics as the physical appearance of airline check-in girl, her qualities as a person, theories about her ancestors, speculations as to what surprises the future might have in store for her and the airline for which she worked, and finally lit by chance on the happy subject of the man’s credit card.
He didn’t have one.
Further discussions ensued, having to do with checks and why the airline did not accept them.
Kate took a long, slow, murderous look at her watch. “Excuse me, she said, interrupting the transactions. “Is this going to take long? I have to catch the Oslo fight.”
“I’m just dealing with this gentleman,” said the girl. “I’ll be with you in just one second.”
Kate nodded and politely allowed just one second to go by.”
From The Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul by Douglas Adams

Okay, you forgo England and Norway, and land in Italy. Are you ready for Rome?

Sabatini Cafe and Ciampini Cafe, images from Rome’s 15 best cafes

And for that:

“Even though it was noon, the place was empty. They picked a table outside by the river, and a waiter hurried over. He looked a bit surprised to see them – especially when they said they wanted lunch.
“American?” he asked, with a pained smile.
“Yes,” Annabeth said.
“And I’d love a pizza,” Percy said.
The waiter looked like he was trying to swallow a euro coin. “Of course you would, signor. And let me guess: A Coca-Cola? With ice?”
“Awesome,” Percy said. He didn’t understand why the guy was giving him such a sour face.
From The Mark of Athena, by Rick Riordan

You decide not to venture across the Atlantic, and just drive to New York City? You might change your mind after reading O.Henry’s account (Mammon and the Archer):

“The cabman tried to pass to the left, but a heavy express wagon cut him off. He tried the right, and had to back away from a furniture van that had no business to be there. He tried to back out, but dropped his reins and swore dutifully. He was blockaded in a tangled mess of vehicles and horses.
One of those street blockades had occurred that sometimes tie up commerce and movement quite suddenly in the big city.
“Why don’t you drive on?” said Miss Lantry, impatiently. “We’ll be late.”
Richard stood up in the cab and looked around. He saw a congested flood of wagons, trucks, cabs, vans, and street-cars filling the vast space where Broadway, Sixth Avenue and Thirty-fourth Street cross each other as a twenty-six inch maiden fills her twenty-two inch girdle.”

Sounds harsh, not quite romantic? This story, published in the early twentieth century, shows that true love does not need a romantic destination. That night, Richard and Miss Lantry got engaged while trapped in the traffic jam. According to Richard’s aunt, “A little emblem of true love – a little ring that symbolized unending and unmercenary affection – was the cause of our Richard finding his happiness…”





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