Just like long-forgotten pop and TV stars still, attract people to visit pantomimes although they haven’t appeared in anything since the days of Margaret Thatcher so tourism destinations plug their links with nearly forgotten films and TV series. Cumbria has the links with the film of Beatrix Potter, Mama Mia is doing wonders for tourism on the Greek isle of Skopelos. Even Balamory, the children’s TV programme attracts people to Tobermory. Now there comes a different form of product placement.
According to a fascinating story in The Sunday Times yesterday, a new novel by Lionel Shriver has been funded by a resort and a tour operator. Shriver acknowledges the Fundu Lagoon on the island of Pemba near Zanzibar as where she did her research. All in all The Sunday Times thinks that about £5,000 is the cost of this plug for the area. To put it into perspective that is less than half the price of a black and white full-page advertisement in the newspaper. And she is also writing a travel piece about the place for, guess who, The Sunday Times.
Would a novel that points out only the positive, appealing features of a destination encourage you to go there? Gerald Durrell’s “My Family and Other Animals” was written as long ago as 1956 and still encourages people to go to Corfu but I’m not sure that “Our Man In Havana” by Graham Greene had the same effect for Cuba.
Should novels come with a cigarette type warning saying that the book is partly sponsored by Costa Cheapa tourism and therefore may be biased in its content? Shriver denies this is product placement but admits that some people who have read the book are considering going there. But is this any different from what currently happens by journalists on newspapers, magazines and TV travel programmes who get free trips to publicise them? You never get “I’ve been to Costa Cheapa. It’s dreadful. Don’t go near it with a bargepole.” (I should say that of all the pieces that we have written in CD-Traveller, to my knowledge, only three by contributors have been subsidized.)
So onto the bandwagon. My first novel will be called “The Tourist” and will be set in the Maldives, Seychelles, Aruba, Tahiti or wherever some nice destination pays suitcases full of money for me to plug it!