There is a book that came out in 2009 called Tours of Vietnam: War, Travel Guides, and Memory by Scott Laderman. This is what the description about the book says:
“In Tours of Vietnam, Scott Laderman demonstrates how tourist literature has shaped Americans’ understanding of Vietnam and projections of United States power since the mid-twentieth century. Laderman analyzes portrayals of Vietnam’s land, history, culture, economy, and people in travel narratives, U.S. military guides, and tourist guidebooks, pamphlets, and brochures. Whether implying that Vietnamese women were in need of saving by ‘manly’ American military power or celebrating the neoliberal reforms Vietnam implemented in the 1980s, ostensibly neutral guides have repeatedly represented events in ways that favor the global ambitions of the United States.”
While Laderman relies heavily on the writings produced by Americans, he does analyze some materials produced by tourism officials in South Vietnam. Their participation in the effort to promote tourism, and the ways in which they presented information to attract perceived customers is a topic I would like to know more about.
It’s a topic, however, that one can probably find a lot more information to research about with regards to neighboring Thailand.
Yesterday I stumbled across a magazine that was published by the Tourism Authority of Thailand in the 1960s and 1970s called Holiday Time in Thailand.
It provides a pretty wholesome view of Thailand, and talks about a wide variety of places that tourists can visit, from temples to beaches.
But one thing that’s pretty easy to notice is that many of the pictures are of women.
To talk about Thai orchids, for instance, there are pictures of women holding orchids. . .
. . . and with orchids in their hair.
I did find one picture of a Western woman, so there was some effort to try to say that Thailand was a place that foreign female tourists would enjoy visiting too.
But pictures like the one below of a lone woman on the beach seem to send a different message.
Then I found this following group of photographs interesting.
On the one hand it seems to be pointing out how modern and progressive Thailand is in that a group of women have the time, money and leisure to take a vacation.
Then on the other hand, like the picture of a lone woman on the beach, these images also seem to be kind of inviting.
When we see a man in the picture, he is just there in the background, and is not “threatening” in any way.
And then finally you have pictures like this one, with a young woman sitting at a bar holding up a drink and looking right at the camera. . . looking right at “you”! “Come to Thailand”!!
These images were designed to get people on airplanes, and it seems clear that the Tourism Authority of Thailand at that time had an image of who those people were.
It would be nice if someone would write a book about tourism in Thailand in this period and examine how the Thai tourism industry at that time intersected with the various powers and issues that Laderman discusses in his book.