Romania – Consequences of tourism commodification.

(Excerpt from the doctoral thesis “Visual identity sources for Romania’s country brand,” author Bogdan Brînzaș)

“A fact about which the spectator of the show allows himself not to speak for three days is as if it didn’t exist […] The practical consequences of such a situation are, as can be seen, grand”.[1]

Henri Lefebvre made several predictions regarding the future:
“A remarkable example of the production of space based on the difference internal to the dominant mode of production is provided by the current transformation of the Mediterranean perimeter into one of leisure space for industrialized Europe. As such, and even in the sense of a space of “non-work” (allocated not only for vacations but also for convalescence, rest, retirement and so on), this field acquired a specific role in the social division of labour […] The truth is that all this unproductive spending is carefully planned: centralized, organized, hierarchical, symbolized and programmed, serving the interests of tour operators, bankers and entrepreneurs in places like London and Hamburg. To be more precise, […] in the spatial practice of neo-capitalism (complete with air transportation), representations of space facilitate the manipulation of spaces of representation (sun, sea, festival, waste, expense)”.[2]

As we observe, the countries are part of these apotheotic predictions – partially true – the tourist becoming an avid consumer of entertainment, thirsty for experiences as diverse and as many as possible, and the cities of the present time need to be fed, being economically dried up in this post-modern era through the disappearance of manufacturing and industrial production, becoming the space that hosts consumption and at the same time the space that must be consumed. Andy Warhol visually illustrated Lefebvre’s prophecy with his famous depictions of Brillo boxes and canned Campbell’s soup.[3] All of these have become everyday normality, continuously urging experiential consumption and contributing to the current belief in the right to happiness at any cost. So why are post-modern society changes and psychosocial and cultural characteristics significant from the perspective of a country’s image?

Today, tourists travel most often with pre-formed expectations about their chosen destinations, expectations created with the help of photographic and video material present in all the virtual media and feeds accessed perpetually: TV channels with travel show present well-structured and technically and artistically made films, video channels on sharing platforms showcase each visitor’s experience made in direct catch-up with their means, the photographic images are a mouse click away on online search engines, social networks abound with posts with images of friends and acquaintances from the most different destinations, websites present us professionally photographed hotels and destinations, etc. and so on. All this visual abundance that presents itself beautified, augmented and perfect in every detail creates expectations and generates consumption. Most often, the shown images create virtual variants detached from reality, augmented by video and photo capture and processing techniques. We can see the result in all social media applications, which abound with images captured in the most varied destinations, where crowds of tourists consume the cities through photographic snapshots, patiently waiting in line to direct each the same archetypal photograph.

Countries are considered experiences, entertainment and “fun”, just like products, services, workplaces or even human relationships. This trend emerged with the development of television as the ultimate supra-ideological form of entertainment.[4] The evolution of the transformation or packaging of information in entertainment appeared with the decontextualization of information through telegraph transmission [5] ; as Postman argues, it continued with the mass printing revolution, the democratization of television culminating today in the commodification of virtual means of communication resulting from the digital technological revolution. Open and hidden advertising no longer talks about the tangible character of the advertised product but, conversely, about the nature of the potential consumer of that product. Almost all images presented in today’s promotion and advertising are unrelated to that product, but depict lifestyles and generally speak to and commercially speculate on the intended audience’s fears or dreams.

From the current complex context also arises the need for countries to act by the attributes of time concerning the population segments, which are inclined to experience new destinations. Still, it is not only tourists who try out destinations. Added to these are potential investors, as every country needs a permanent inflow of capital to fuel endless economic growth – a paradigm of capitalism present in all economic talks[6] – desired by both the governed and the governors. At the same time, that country is forced by the same economic motivations, by the global economic context, by the economic ideologies in operation in those countries and by other measures, such as the mandatory increase in exports.

In summary, we can synthesize the need for a country brand, seen as a “working” tool, on two levels: the political level, where there is the need for countries to react or act proactively to internal and external political, environmental factors, and the economic level, dictated by current economic ideologies, which postulate economic growth as the only alternative for survival in the post-modern competitive world.

[1] Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle: comments on the Society of the Spectacle (EST, f.l., 1992), p.80.
[2] Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (Blackwell Publishing, f.l., 1974), p.58-59.
[3] Mădălina Surducan, “Noua paradigmă a capitalismului artistic: între business artist și superstar / The New Paradigm of Artistic Capitalism: between Business Artist and Superstar”, Irregular, (2016),, accessed on November 13, 2021.
[4] Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, p.114-117, 126.
[5] Ibidem, p.99.
[6] European Commission, “Europe 2020: Commission proposes new economic strategy in Europe”, European Commission,, accessed on November 13, 2021.