(Re)Branding the Big Easy: Authenticity and Tourism Rebuilding in

Post-Katrina New Orleans
Kevin Fox Gotham, Ph.D., and Adele Benoit
Department of Sociology
Tulane University
220 Newcomb Hall
New Orleans, LA 70118
Phone: (504) 862-3004
Fax: (504) 865-5544
email: kgotham@tulane.edu
Abstract
Tourism scholars currently debate whether urban branding is a process of homogenization that
undermines local authenticity or whether branding accentuates local distinctiveness and
promotes new meanings of authenticity. This paper draws upon interview data, newspaper
reports, and secondary data to provide insight into the process and conflicts over efforts to brand
New Orleans as a historic city and entertainment destination from the 1990s to the present.
Urban branding is a process of attributing certain images, symbols, and motifs to a particular city
in order to motivate people to visit that place, support inward investment, and build local
identity. I identify the key actors and organized interests involved in branding New Orleans, the
rationale and logic of branding, and examine the key marketing strategies tourism organizations
have used to stimulate travel and enhance place distinctiveness. Finally, by way of conclusion, I
address the current moment, when a broad-based coalition of city leaders is attempting to
revitalize New Orleans tourism in the post-Katrina era. My goal is to explore how the
devastation and destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina is leading to the re-branding of New
Orleans and the marketing of urban rebuilding. My analysis of authenticity and place marketing
provides an important opportunity for theoretical development and offers a unique perspective
for understanding urban branding as a contested and conflictual process of homogenization and
diversification.

Introduction

Recent decades have witnessed an explosion of urban scholarship on the changing role of
tourism, place marketing, and entertainment in contemporary society. Scholarly treatments of
the subject of tourism, demographic analyses of tourist behavior, and studies on the increasing
proliferation of entertainment destinations now dominate the literature (Judd and Fainstein 1999;
Hoffman, Fainstein, and Judd 2003; Sheller and Urry 2004; Rath 2005). John Urry’s (2002)
concept of “tourism reflexivity” suggests that we now live in a global society permeated by the
logic of entertainment and tourism whereby cities are increasingly developing procedures and
criteria for monitoring, evaluating, and cultivating their tourist potential. Mark Gottdiener and
colleagues’ (1999) investigation of Las Vegas, John Hannigan’s (1998) analysis of the rise of
“fantasy city,” Paul Chatterton and Robert Hollands’s (2003) examination of urban nightscapes,
and Richard Lloyd and Terry Nichols Clark’s (2001) concept of the “entertainment machine” all
draw attention to how cities around the world are attempting to redefine themselves as sites of
fun, leisure, and entertainment. These accounts reflect a broader interest in the political
economy of tourism, the transformation of public spaces into privatized “consumption” spaces,
and the latest attempts by urban leaders to provide a package of shopping, dining, and
entertainment within a themed and controlled environment - a development that scholars have
called the “Disneyification” of urban space (for overviews, see Sorkin 1992; Eeckhout 2001).
Yet despite much research and debate, few scholars agree on how analysts should conceptualize
tourism, what should be the appropriate levels of analysis for assessing the causes and
consequences of tourism, and what data sources researchers should use to measure tourism
empirically. Around the world tourism-oriented urban regeneration remains a source of much
debate and controversy. Some scholars claim that tourism is a global force of rationalization
and homogenization that hollows out the rich texture, spontaneity, and uniqueness of social
relations and their creations and thereby corrupts authentic cultural spaces.0 Others maintain that
0The view that tourism spoils, contaminates, or “bastardizes” a “pure” and “authentic” culture and place through the
processes of commodifcation and bureaucratic rationalization is shared by many scholars in diverse disciplines (for
examples, see Greenwood 1989; Britton 1991; Watson and Kopachevsky 1994; Alsayyad 2001; Ritzer 2004;
Bryman 1999; Kirschenblatt-Gimblett 1998). For overviews and critical assessments, see Shepherd (2002), Olsen
(2002), and Fainstein and Gladstone (1999).

tourism can be a mechanism for preserving indigenous cultures and enhancing community life
(for an overview, see Rath 2005). Still others argue that tourism is a amalgam of global-local
connections that promotes both cultural homogeneity and heterogeneity but they disagree over
the form, process, and trajectory (Gladstone 2005; Teo and Li 2003; Chang 2000a; 2000b).
This paper has two goals. First, I examine how place marketing and urban branding have
become important elements in the development of tourism in New Orleans since the 1980s. In
the realm of place promotion, urban branding is the frequent use of a specific name, symbol,
logo, or design (or combination of these) in order to identify a place, to distinguish it from its
competitors, and to prompt tourists in their decision making (Greenberg 2003; 2000).
Successfully branded leisure spaces play on people’s desires for comfort and certainty and
provide a point of distinction and identification for consumers. New Orleans has long been
called “The City That Care Forgot,” “The Big Easy,” a destination where visitors can “Laissez
Les Bons Temps Roule” or “Let the Good Times Roll.” In recent decades, local tourism officials
and organizations have elaborated and extended these and other slogans through a series of
strategic branding campaigns that aim to define New Orleans as America’s “most authentic city.”
Today, city leaders and tourism boosters use a variety of themes, sophisticated marketing
devices, and other advertising techniques to enhance urban distinctiveness and differentiate New
Orleans from other destinations around the world. Themes such as “authenticity,” “uniqueness,”
and “distinctiveness” provide symbolic unity to diverse tourist attractions while also encouraging
the proliferation of a range of attractions, first to attract tourists and then to keep them occupied.
I identify the key actors and organized interests involved in branding New Orleans, the rationale
and logic of branding, and examine the key marketing strategies tourism organizations have used
to stimulate travel and enhance place distinctiveness in a rapidly changing global world.

Second, I explore how branding strategies and initiatives feed into local conflicts and
struggles over meanings and definitions of cultural authenticity. For decades, tourism scholars
have conceived authenticity as an a priori category or local attribute that motivates tourists to

however. Olsen 2002). elements that different groups and cultures continually select and craft to meet the needs and conflicts of the present. and struggles over building authenticity claims (Gotham 2005b. I will address the current moment. culture. This hybrid. by way of conclusion. has moved away from this static conception and explored the processes of authenticity construction. transformed. Recent tourism research.0 Finally. see Shepherd 2002. Rather. The primary data come from more than seven years of continuous participant observation. government documents. I gathered these interviews through a snowball sample. for overviews. . In contrast to prevailing conceptions that view authenticity as either primordial and durable or malleable and fabricated. when a broad-based coalition of city leaders and tourism boosters are attempting to revitalize New Orleans in the post-Katrina era. and newspaper articles. In addition. I show how struggles over meanings of authenticity in tourism are a conflictual and reflexive process of cultural dilution and cultural (re)invention within the context of existing power relations. On the other hand. situational. planning reports. I investigate how tourism organizations and agencies in New Orleans have adapted. I address these issues using a combination of historical and secondary data. and other local products and attributes. I characterize authenticity as emergent. Hurricane Katrina is a unprecedented disaster that has caused catastrophic human suffering. and contested. and physical destruction. economic disruption. the disaster has 0The historical and secondary data come from archival collections. and constructed view of authenticity suggests that we focus less on whether sites are authentic or not and direct our attention to how different groups attempt to construct authenticity and create demand for the authentic. negotiated. authenticity is a reconstruction of various aspects of local culture and heritage. While meanings of authenticity are socially constructed and mutable.travel to places to consume history. conflicts over meanings of authenticity. and neighborhood leaders who have had first-hand knowledge and experience with the transformation of New Orleans over the decades. tourism officials. these meanings cannot be arbitrary fabricated and deployed at will. Authenticity does not refer to some clear standard or essential element from a unitary culture or heritage. On the one hand. To protect the confidentiality of interviewees I use pseudonyms and/or initials for nonpublic persons quoted in the paper. and primary data. and in-depth semi-structured interviews with thirty seven local residents. and strategically deployed “authenticity” as a marketing device and advertising slogan to enhance tourism and urban place building.

and confidence. irony. 18 December 2005.” according to Mayor C. Rebecca. the uncertainty and devastation unleashed by Hurricane Katrina has reinvigorated old debates and stimulated new arguments about the meanings and definitions of local authenticity. St. and St. St. city leaders and tourism officials have clashed over the role tourism should play in the city rebuilding process. 8 December 2005. 24 November 2005. Mowbray. And that’s a concern. 0Thevenot. My goal is to explore how the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina is leading to the re-branding of New Orleans and the marketing of urban rebuilding. P. New Orleans Tourism Before Hurricane Katrina New Orleans confronts us as a city of paradox. .1 million residents with approximately 85. Plaquemines Parish. that they don’t see the rebuilding that is going on. “Nation Has Blurry Image of City. local elites have attempted to counter negative images of destruction and advertise New Orleans as a come-back city that is regaining its vibrancy. 1. The New Orleans metropolitan statistical area (MSA) is an eight county area that includes Orleans Parish. and intense inequalities. Bruce. “You ask what New Orleans is like today. New conflicts and struggles are emerging between local groups and neighborhoods over what constitutes authenticity. and how should authenticity be expressed. Tammany Parish. Rebecca.000 people employed in 2500 tourism related-companies. Long known as the Crescent City. St. and contradiction.exposed to a global audience New Orleans’s chronic poverty.” Times-Picayune. the metropolitan area contained approximately 1. “We have an image challenge throughout the country. and many people only have images of a city in crisis. “Mardi Gras To Seek Its First Sponsor. who should define what authenticity means. style. Elite efforts to attract corporate sponsors to underwrite the cost of staging Mardi Gras 2006 are generating bitter conflict and opposition. James Parish. Charles Parish.0 Moreover. 0Eggler. “Tourism Chief Takes Nagin to Task: Mayor Impeding Rebound. St. Jefferson Parish. He Says.”0 Since the disaster.” New Orleans Times-Picayune. Ray Nagin. At the same time. the metropolis has been condemned as a city of vice and decadence and celebrated as a place of joyous culture and unforgettable charm.” Times-Picayune. strained race relations.” Times-Picayune. “Carnival Plan Calls for 8 Days of Parades. Brian. 8 December 2005.” Before the Hurricane Katrina disaster. John the Baptist Parish. Mowbray. A county in the state of Louisiana is called a “parish. Bernard Parish.

In the early 1900s. Throughout the decades. During this time sections of New Orleans became oriented toward leisure and entertainment: public parks.0 Katrina has destabilized the metropolitan region and Gulf Coast and contributed to major financial losses. and a growing market for leisure and amusement dominated the New Orleans economy. art galleries. Some of New Orleans’s tourist attractions . shopping and so. The process of rebuilding the economic base. 2005. New conflicts are erupting over social dislocation. the economy had a tripartite base made up 0New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.according to figures from the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau (NOMCVB). The discovery of oil in the early decades of the twentieth century spearhead a tremendous growth of the chemical and petroleum industry and by the Second World War the city had established itself as a hub for military shipbuilding and manufacturing. The demographic and population consequences of the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people remain unclear. and Mardi Gras. excellent music. and the rebuilding of the city and metropolitan area. resettlement. major neighborhoods and cities in the metropolitan area remain unlivable and physical destruction is widespread. business failures. Tourism in the New Orleans metropolitan area has grown tremendously over the last century. sports grounds. New Orleans. political and economic elites promoted images of New Orleans as a charming city with beautiful and historic architecture. and transportation systems are likely to take years. Today. The city’s “red light” district and jazz culture left an indelible image in the minds of travelers and served for decades as a magnet to draw people to experience the “sin” industry (Long 2004). LA: New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau . legal and government infrastructures. and unemployment. river-based commerce.the Vieux Carre and the Audubon Zoo . public school systems. Stephen Perry. while people are returning to the city of New Orleans. “New Orleans Tourism Industry: Blueprint for Economic Recovery and Emergency Funding Request Pursuant to Damage from Hurricane Katrina. October 17. cotton trade.suffered little negative impact from the hurricane while others such as City Park and the famed street cars and trolley system experienced major damage. theaters.” Prepared by J. The long-term consequences of Hurricane Katrina to the metropolitan region are likely to unfold over a period of years if not decades. By the middle of the century. outstanding cuisine.

political and economic elites have forged close institutional links and developed several public-private partnerships in pursuit of tourism as a strategy to encourage inward investment and urban revitalization.2 million visitors to New Orleans in 2003. and 19. manufacturing jobs in New Orleans declined in every year except one. a festival mall. the convention market has also grown 0Figures come from the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau (NOMCVB) (www.8 billion with $198. including the 1984 World’s Fair.of the chemical and petroleum industry.686 in 1975.216 international visitors.neworleanscvb. From 1967 to 1977.cfm) . there were 8. and a World War II museum.0 The hotel industry has grown considerably over the last few decades as indicated by the skyrocketing number of hotel rooms in the metropolitan area. periodic Super Bowls and (Nokia) Sugar Bowls.cfm). a major theme park. and the tourism industry (Lauria. New Orleans city officials and elites began devising strategies to increase tourist travel to enhance the economic prosperity and fiscal status of the central city.500 hotel/motel rooms. including 485.com/new_site/visitor/researchfacts.neworleanscvb. Over the decades. In 1990. the port industry.000 by 2004 (www. By 1977. the Essence Festival. the Jazz and Heritage Festival. to 10. As the chart on the following page shows. the NCAA basketball tournaments. a situation that placed the city among the lowest in industrial employment in the nation (Smith and Keller 1986). and so on. Total visitor expenditures amounted to $3. the metropolitan area had approximately 25.500 in 1985.34 million in tourism tax revenues. only 11 percent of the labor force was employed in manufacturing. Dwindling urban population and burgeoning suburban development during the 1960s raised the specter of economic stagnation and created the context for city leaders to accelerate the development of tourism in the city. The city has also staged many mega-events. According to data gathered by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. This figure increased to 28. a massive convention center. Whelan.000 in 1999 and more than 33. During the 1950s. new office towers in the Central Business District. The number of hotel rooms increased from 4750 in 1960.com/new_site/visitor/visstats. and Young 1995. Whelan and Young 1991). The various components of this tourism strategy have included the building of a domed stadium.

immensely since the 1960s. and 3556 conventions in 2000. Master Plan Issues Paper. a development that reflects the growth of a tourism infrastructure of hotel and motel accommodations. 2001 disaster have depressed the convention industry. the creation of the Mayor's Office of Tourism and Arts. restaurants. lackluster economic growth and the lingering effects of the September 11. The city hosted 172 conventions in 1960. 1000 conventions in 1975. Nevertheless. the establishment of the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network. overall convention attendance increased more than twenty times from 1960 to 2001. university programs in tourism management and service. 1453 conventions in 1990. . and the expansion of Convention and Visitor’s Bureau efforts to market the region to international tourists (City of New Orleans. festival promotions. December 2000). the creation of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. professional sports. according to the chart. 2485 conventions in 1995. and so on. Other tourism developments in the1990s include the legalization of gaming in Louisiana. In recent years.

.

The 1980s and 1990s represented the beginning of a new era of expanded tourism development and place marketing in New Orleans. specifically during the summer and the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s day. First. and others to New Orleans. Fourth. in 1988. non-profit. the NCAA Final Four. the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans established the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation (NOTMC) as a private. agencies. in 1990. The growth of a plethora of . the City of New Orleans established the Mayor's Office of Tourism and Arts to serve as a liaison to the tourism industry and arts organizations. the BTN was renamed the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network (NOMTN) and expanded its mission to promote the cultural diversity of New Orleans. The creation of these new tourism agencies combined with the passage of state and local laws to bolster the tourism industry in New Orleans have contributed to increased specialization and differentiation of tourism organizations. in 1995. Second. in 1990. and spaces. thirteen African American business owners established the Black Tourism Network (BTN) to increase opportunities for African Americans in the tourism industry. Third. Finally. All five of these legal-organizational developments have become central forces in the expansion of the tourism industry in New Orleans and have played strategic roles in increasing the volume of travelers that visit the city each year. In 1999. local business leaders established the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation to attract and manage sporting events in New Orleans. during the middle 1990s. Through a program of advertising and public relations the agency attempts to boost hotel occupancy when tourism is slow. economic development corporation to foster job growth and economic revitalization by marketing New Orleans as a leisure destination. Since this time the Sports Foundation has grown to a year-round. Five developments have been important. the state of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans passed statutes earmarking a portion of the local hotelmotel tax to the New Orleans Metropolitan and Convention and Visitors Bureau (NOMCVB) to expand foreign travel to the city and promote the city as a leisure and convention destination internationally. full-time staff and has attracted sporting events like the Super Bowl.

a branded place is spatially-fixed. Tourism is an amalgam of aesthetic sensibilities. and as a place of year-round and all-day and night entertainment. the NOTMC and Harrahs have established a synergistic “marketing partnership” of pubic relations. metropolitan residents are now subject to strategic and methodical promotional campaigns urging them to acquire the knowledge and visual orientation characteristic of tourists. and consumed by people at the point of production. every county (parish) in the metropolitan area had at least one agency . public policy. Unlike other brands that people buy and sell in markets. In short. The legalization of gambling in Louisiana in the 1990s and the opening of a Harrah’s casino in New Orleans have expanded the base of monies to fund local tourism marketing agencies such the NOTMC. The NOMCVB has offices in several foreign countries and works with state and local governments to promote the city’s culture and attractions on a global scale. and modes of organization that span the metropolitan area and link New Orleans with global processes. branding is global process . Before the Katrina disaster. tourism has effectively become part of the broader urban “culture” of New Orleans with its own set of rules.devoted to attracting visitors to the area. Urban Branding and the Holy Trinity of New Orleans Tourism Urban branding stands at the nexus of global forces of transnational flows and networks of activity. activities. In recent years. tourism is not a set of interactions and activities that occur at demarcated tourist sites. technologies. and local forces of territorial embeddedness and place particularity. non-transportable. As a result of these institutional transformations. and direct marketing to generate awareness of New Orleans as a holiday destination. entertaining attractions.tourism organizations.a convention and visitors bureau . cultural practices. email marketing campaigns. Reflecting Urry (2002) who explores the dedifferentiation of tourism and other social activities. These campaigns have a long history and current forms aim to encourage residents to be tourists in their own hometown. and spaces. and spectacular sights and sites means that tourism is now a major component of how local people perceive the world around them. On the one hand.

iacvb. and create a “promise” that frames the destination experience for visitors. and original.of homogenization and standardization with numerous powerful corporate brands circulating in the global market place. 1997. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. urban branding is a process of differentiation and diversification whereby local tourism organizations. generic. and “Country Music Capital of the World” (Nashville) are part of the repertoire of local urban branding and represent strategic efforts to identify a city’s image and establish a singular personality. Leon. Around the world.that it can be a process of homogenization and heterogeneity . distinctive.. “City of Angels” (Los Angeles). 9 May 2005. 2004.” Hotel Online: News for the Hospitality Executive. the most successful brands are extra–local. arts and cultural facilities. Slogans like “Live Large. 1995). Grasping that branding embodies these contrasting tendencies at once . Eade. Nike. 10 May 2005. Think Big” (Dallas). to the homogeneity and standardized nature of corporate brands. .is crucial to articulating the conflicts and struggles of branding and avoiding one-sided and reductive conceptions. Judd. New Orleans has always engaged in various forms of place promotion and marketing to enhance local distinctiveness and project a favorable image to a global audience to attract visitors.org/). “Developing a Genuine Destination Brand” in Nation’s Cities Weekly (http://www. and historic preservation groups harness and construct place images and help produce tourist sites to attract consumers and investment to particular locale (Sheller and Urry. What is new in the 1990s is the scope and scale of place marketing and way in which branding has moved from being one of several marketing strategies to becoming the most 0See Special Report from the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus (IACVB).0 In contrast. “Las Vegas: Gambling. New Orleans Bourbon Street. differentiate them from competitors in the minds of visitors. Convention and Visitor’s Bureaus (CVBs) have embraced and implemented branding strategies to clearly define their local attractions. Economically. On the other hand. Knight-Ridder / Tribune Business News. Corporate brands like Coka-Cola. Orlando: Disney. empty of distinctive content. branded spaces and cities valorize cultural diversity and project images that attempt to convince people that they are relatively unique. Zukin. 2003. and McDonalds are centrally conceived and lack locally-based networks and communal ties. Atlanta: Hmmm.. museums. See also Stafford. and not constrained by local habits or idiosyncracies.

and have “images of family/children (conveys safety). the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation (NOTMC) has established partnerships with the Louisiana Office of Tourism. “show the day with the night”. the NOMCVB began “disseminating a strategically crafted set of core messages that ‘brand’ the city as a the premier destination. and good times New Orleans offers any time of the year. Our Summer Campaign pushed traditional inquiries 10% beyond the previous year’s campaign. “reflect authentic. and Caribbean culture and its preeminence as a center for art. the NOMCVB is “branding itself as the national leader in best practices and customer service. the concept of “authentic fun” and the message “happenin’ every day” got very positive responses. fun positioning”. It marks a shift from the purely direct-response approach of rior years by adding a strong image component. As the NOTMC Corporations 2002 Annual Report notes: The new comprehensive branding campaign focused on the food. The 2003 Annual Report of the NOTMC notes that their “creative strategy” is to expand upon the “New Orleans: Happen’ Every Day” theme to “highlight food.important one. Over the last few years. it delivered as tested. work. an energetic and vibrant city not only to visit but also in which to live. and food. In our creative testing in 2001. the New Orleans Metropolitan Conventional and Visitor Bureau (NOMCVB). “The NOMCVB is branding New Orleans as a city undergoing an economic and cultural renaissance.” . and history”. African. music. ambience. “utilize photography”. In 2002. music.” Such campaigns are employed synergistically to maximize exposure of New Orleans to a global audience. and the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network to launch several marketing campaigns that together attempt to brand New Orleans as a place of “authentic fun. and do business. music. In 2003.” This branding campaign connects with the marketing efforts of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau (NOMCVB). The CVB’s communication emphasizes New Orleans’ unique blend of European.” As the 2003 Annual Report of the NOMCVB tells it.” At the same time.

and thereby stimulate the desire to “experience” the city. music.Brand marketing campaigns and image building involve a mix of claims to distinction and assurances of predictability and comfort based on homogeneity and standardization. All the cultures of New Orleans emphasize these elements and we use them to promote the city and its peoples. and gazing upon historic buildings. Through urban branding. branding enhances the calculability. In New Orleans. this narrative of distinction is constructed around three themes . art.represents pleasurable experiences (eating. predictability. tourists. John Urry (2002. local tourism groups seek to forge emotional linkages between the signifier “New Orleans” and potential consumers (including residents. The quote below from one official of the NOTMC describes this holy trinity of history. and food .S. the holy . and so on) in such a way that the name of the city will arouse a whole series of pleasurable images and sentiments. branding assists in reducing the uncertainty of the tourist experience by making exotic places and cultural products transparent and understandable. 1995. music. The holy trinity of New Orleans tourism . and focusing and rationalizing the tourist gaze. The images the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation uses to promote tourism are evocative and emphasize the holy trinity of New Orleans tourism: food. music. p. Branding is an important mechanism for pinpointing a city’s image. investors. and artifacts) as consumption-based entertainment activities.that constitute the “holy trinity” of New Orleans tourism. and history .). and on cable television.food. music. As a set of advertising slogans. Our emphasis is on the authenticity and heritage of New Orleans (Interview with S. consumer magazines. and history. As a major form of place promotion. Thus. listening to music. and efficiency of consuming places. We advertise in regional markets.history. 132) suggests that tourism is about the accumulation of exotic “experiences” which are the anticipated outcomes of the “tourist gaze” where places are chosen to be gazed upon because there is anticipation of pleasure than what is normally encountered in everyday life. and food that connect and unite the disparate elements of the city and region.

branding suggests the transformation of neighborhoods into abstract representations. as places to visit to gaze upon local history and culture.com) (Accessed 8 September 2003). and the unusual (Urry 2002. the Lower Ninth Ward. extraordinary. among others. “Faubourg Treme. and enhance local pride. Mid-City. . In New Orleans. cultural. music. political. in recent years local tourism boosters have attempted to brand specific neighborhoods as tourist attractions. for example. America’s Oldest Black Neighborhood. Before Katrina. draw visitors to the city. Marigny. Holy Cross. These campaigns provide travelers and locals with a ready-made language and vocabulary of images for understanding and interpreting the city and its culture and history. however. branding campaigns embrace strategies of place differentiation and image specialization to create commercial value. In addition. social and legal events that have literally shaped the course of events in Black America for the past two centuries”0 Ordinary neighborhoods become extraordinary tourist attractions when tourism companies redesign and represent otherwise mundane neighborhoods as special. In recent years. tourism organizations have defined a variety of neighborhoods including the Irish Channel.” (Www. and entertaining sites that have historical and cultural significance. the general nature of these terms suggests their easy application to other places to valorize local culture and enhance tourism. proclaimed that the Treme neighborhood “is not only America’s oldest black neighborhood but was the site of significant economic. thereby mobilizing travelers to visit them. What is important is that the constitution of neighborhoods as tourist sites reflects conscious and organized efforts to capitalize on the tourist’s desire for the spectacular. Tourism organizations and officials have long advertised neighborhoods such as the French Quarter and the Garden District.trinity of New Orleans tourism . Three examples are noteworthy.carries a great deal of symbolic value and utility because all three are broad and all-encompassing referents that lack specificity. with viewers constituted as passive consumers and communities constructed as a consumable spectacle. spectacular. advertisements from the NOTMC. and history .neworleansonline. Indeed. First. Treme. Like other place 0New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. Judd and Fainstein 1999).food. and others as crucibles cultural creativity and carriers of local tradition and heritage.

marketing strategies. a theme and symbol to stimulate further consumption.”0 In addition. In the case of Brennan’s Restaurants and Southern Comfort. jazz funerals and celebrations like Mardi Gras and the Jazz and Heritage Festival have become major tourist attractions. Southern Comfort has attempted to market itself as an “authentic” New Orleans tradition by emphasizing that the Southern Comfort secret formula was developed on Bourbon Street. these corporations view New Orleans theme advertising campaigns as key devices to shape their brands’ images and identities. Over the last two decades. local leaders established the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra as a non-profit jazz education and performance organization that had as its purpose “the celebration. and structured branding of New Orleans jazz” and the development of a “New Orleans based jazz tourism 0McNulty.php) (Accessed 6 December 2005) . Las Vegas and Anaheim. proclaim that they are “responsible for fostering a culinary tradition that many regard as the epitome of New Orleans fine dining . Third. proliferation. for example. and produced for market-based instrumental activities (Gotham 2002. urban branding involves organized efforts to brand major companies and their products as institutional vehicles of New Orleans culture. In recent years.. “The Brennans Family: A Luscious Legacy” (www. the term “New Orleans” contains a multiplicity of meanings and images that offers free exposure and publicity for the city through corporate advertising. On the other hand.. Ian. festivals and other celebrations into commercialized vehicles of “staged authenticity” for boosting the tourist trade (MacCannell 1992). Second. California. Advertisements from the Brennan family restaurants. performed for tourist consumption. and Brennan-branded restaurants are now in business in Houston. On the one hand. the process of urban branding involves the reconfiguration of local rituals.com/dining/brennans. urban branding presents the urban landscape as a collage of frozen images that are marketed and interpreted for tourists. corporations employ “New Orleans” as a floating signifier. In 2002. musical styles and genres. 2005b). city elites and tourism boosters have attempted to brand jazz music as authentically New Orleans in an effort to generate inward investment and stimulate the growth of a local music industry. 2005a.frenchquarter.

Today. Producing and circulating brand-values is a process of rearranging commodity-images into chains of meaning and cultural signification to make New Orleans attractive and accessible to the imagination. We need to capitalize on this and begin branding the world-wide appeal of Jazz as a uniquely New Orleans experience.thenojo. Ray Nagin. the significance of branding is that it involves the abstraction or disembedding of local products.”0 Branding New Orleans as the birth place of jazz is a major component of the cultural repertoire of urban place building. package. a variety of businesses specialize in selling New Orleans souvenirs and other themed paraphernalia.” Central to this initiative has been the emphasis on “building national awareness about the role New Orleans has played and continues to play in American culture. Mardi Gras specialty shops are open year round and they design.” Advertisements proclaim “New Orleans jazz is a way of life for New Orleanians” and New Orleans’s “spirit created America’s only indigenous music” (http://www. and sell their commodities for mass consumption. primarily 0“Mayor Builds Music Industry. where to go. branding jazz as distinctively New Orleans represents a strategic effort to authenticate claims to originality that yield tourism investment. Branding imparts to tourists what to do. While the production of local souvenirs has a long history. These strategic efforts supplement a major branding campaign launched by the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development in August 2004 to “facilitate future collaboration among the businesses and entities that promote Jazz. Mayors Office of Communications.” As New Orleans Mayor C.com/mission. The purchase and display of local souvenirs. In the case of carnival.programming.” C. and how to feel. . 9 August 2004. thereby reconfiguring them as commercial displays for expanding tourism. “New Orleans is the birthplace of Jazz and Jazz is the foundation for all music in America. Mayor. Press Release. for example. City of New Orleans. for example.html). Like all place marketing campaigns. social activities and rituals from localized systems of meaning and interaction. has long been a means to express and authenticate the tourist experience. what is new in recent years is the adoption of mass production techniques and sophisticated marketing strategies to stimulate consumer demand for New Orleans branded products and images. Ray Nagin puts it. In short.

clothes.0 Yet. . and a signifier of status. music. The purchase of a New Orleans souvenir is a means to an end: a statement and presentation of taste. it is the appearance of the New Orleans commodity that is more decisive than its actual use value. In this process. 2005a. food. Chatterton and Hollands (2003. hundreds of Internet sites sell New Orleans and Mardi Gras labeled paraphernalia. 25) suggest that beneath the “highly branded” nature of urban entertainment “lurks an increased concentration and conglomeration of ownership by small number of large corporate firms. and non-people (clerks at souvenir shops). clothes and T-shirts. and various trinkets. and so on . flags. 3).p. beads. The above points draw attention to the importance of understanding branding as an amalgam of both homogenizing forces of sameness and uniformity and diversifying forces of difference and variability. music. With New Orleans. and corporate interests in commodifying and homogenizing space for profit and economic gain.” a development also described by Naomi Klein (2000).to tourists and nonresidents. Nothingness. videos. decorations. and comparatively devoid of distinctive content” (2004. against one-sided and reductionist views. 24. plastic cups. global entertainment firms. furniture. we should view branding dialectically as a reciprocal process that can help promote as well as undermine local differences. Over the last few decades. cakes. according to Ritzer. an indicator than one has achieved (purchased) the New Orleans experience. George Ritzer (2004. These products include posters. commemorative souvenirs. non-things (mass-manufactured souvenirs). art galleries.generates a New Orleans image industry and commodity aesthetics (Gotham 2002. Critics often charge that branding is a form of “serial” monotony or mechanical reproduction (Harvey 1989) that hides the powerful role of public policy. The souvenir is a signifier. controlled. 2005b). history. pp. and museums have begun to showcase New Orleans and Mardi Gras memorabilia and the Internet has opened a burgeoning market for buying and selling souvenirs. In the Globalization of Nothing. Today. and dolls. and intimates the city as a branded commodity. 0In their book Urban Nightscapes. p. 180) argues that “a major reason for the existence of brands is to deal with the problem of nothingness” which refers to a “social form that is generally centrally conceived. local auction houses. and the symbolic packaging of otherwise diverse commodities . advertisers and businesses attempt to persuade people that by purchasing a souvenir they are buying a sign of social prestige. cities around the world increasing embrace simulated distinctiveness and pseudooriginality to produce tourist attractions and entertainment infrastructure. coffee and beer mugs. a demonstration of the possession of cultural capital. More important. involves the global production of non-places (Disneyland).

Against views of an “authentic” place corrupted by tourism development. For these people. what tourism organizations and firms present and brand as tourist attractions for outsiders can affect and transform local understandings of authenticity. grassroots meanings of authenticity feed into and provide the cultural resources for urban branding. On the one hand. Others view tourism as a potential resource for preserving local culture and heritage by showcasing the city and its attractions to an international audience. Still others maintain that the problem is not tourism per se but the management. see Gotham 2005c). This sentiment has become more forceful and provocative in recent years with the expansion of chain restaurants and entertainment firms in the French Quarter and other commercial corridors (for an overview. and a “bottom up” approach that focuses on the role of local influences and particularizing forces. I suggest that branding and place marketing efforts can be important mechanisms for generating new definitions and conceptions of local authenticity. meanings and definitions of “authenticity. the city government needs to safeguard the unique authenticity of New Orleans by making sure the city does not become “over-saturated” with tourists and large entertainment chains. In the next section. and mechanism for commercializing heritage. Some local residents view tourism as a harbinger of social instability.local traditions. Conflicts over Authenticity and Tourism Development Over the last few decades. and control of tourism.” local “uniqueness. My nuanced perspective adjudicates between a “top-down” approach that stresses the role of extra-local processes of standardization and rationalization in branding processes. regulation. All the entertainment clubs have pushed residents out. On the other hand. I examine how the growth of place marketing and branding are leading to new conflicts and struggles over local meanings of identity and authenticity. a threat to local culture. According to one French Quarter resident. and local cultures.” and “distinctiveness” have become contested terrain. as tourism has come to dominate more areas of social life within New Orleans. You cannot live in a block with .

In the name of the almighty dollar. Individual business owners do not have as much power as a big corporation and therefore cannot get as much. the Hard Rock Cafe. Other local residents express similar anti-commercial viewpoints and maintain that tourism generally and branded slogans specifically are mechanisms for undermining local culture and authenticity. and promoting totalizing and stereotypical views of local people. As another resident put it.all night loud music every night of the week. As one person told me. Did we really need the House of Blues.). We’ve lobbied the city government to try to stop the intrusion of large corporations on Bourbon Street and have lost. And do you know who started all this stuff? These film people who come here. the Planet Hollywood? They all look the same everywhere you go.). Do we really need that? Commercialism drives it (Interview with L. become more and more like bars and less like restaurants. We have fought valiant battles but ended up losing the war (Interview with J. the House of Blues. The one here looks like the one in Los Angeles that looks like the one in New York. and others into the French Quarter. over time. Right now. They call themselves restaurants but only serve hot dogs and popcorn.R. These large entertainment corporations can bring a lot of pressure on the city. The name “Big Easy” should never apply to New Orleans and has never applied to New Orleans. Who wants to visit a place where you can see the same things in every other city.B. Same with the Mardi Gras saying. tourism is about the almighty dollar. “Greatest Free Show on Earth. It is all part of the French Quarter losing its uniqueness. They think we’re a bunch of lazy people. Some of the businesses that claimed they were going to open up as restaurants have. city leaders have dragged big corporations like Krispy Kreme donuts.” Film people have taken this and exploit it and then people who . These bars are great donors to the politicians.

like all advertisements. All of these things that we have to deal with. or somewhere else USA. ‘hey.).’ and they say. then we can act in using them to help others. tourism organizations and entertainment firms mine local culture for symbols and icons to bolster corporate profits but they do not really give anything back to New Orleans. the people we have to clean up after.” and what that means is that we need to think about ourselves first. According to another person. Tourism advertisements. The tourism industry cannot do this. this single-minded focus on money will destroy our unique culture and heritage (Interview with G. These advertisements present the city in a world that is hermetically sealed off from the reality (from real locals and the real consequences .S. it says.’ Same with an aquarium and a domed stadium. Expressing a discourse of “loss” and “erosion” of local authenticity.come here pollute the city. I always tell people from out of town.S. act locally. ‘we have a nice zoo too. According to some interviewees. New York City. The above comments convey a view of tourism as a pathological force of cultural dilution that corrupts social life. All these kids come down here and sleep on the streets. not compare ourselves to San Francisco. This takes away from the attraction of the city. And why? Because they are only interested in generating money. “think locally. Once we understand our unique assets and learn to appreciate and care for them. we have nice zoo. But what nobody else has is a French Quarter and tourism is destroying the French Quarter. maybe show people how they are valued and appreciated. Atlanta. every city has one of those now or is getting ready to build one. I have this bumper sticker. Over the long-term. all this is part of the terms like Big Easy and Greatest Free Show on Earth (Interview with H. create an exotic world that is insulated from the reality of life on the street. Its all about entertaining people in the most unenlightened and superficial way.). these residents rail against the homogenizing effects of corporate tourism and entertainment chains.

consuming food. tourism can be a mechanism for promoting and reinforcing local authenticity and identity. to the music.of social inequalities) while playing up simulations of the real . In the quote below.). to the neighborhoods. Other residents I interviewed feel that tourism is an institutional vehicle for showcasing the rich tradition and heritage of the city to other people who live in far away places. What we do is to embrace the houses. And our younger generation and older generation needs to be able to embrace it (Interview with A. to raise awareness of history and culture. Since we are preserving the site where the jazz musicians lived. It would still be a house but not a place where he actually lived and his spirit is there. And it would not be the same if we picked that house up and moved it to some other particular place. Rather than nurture local culture. and exploit the uniqueness and distinctiveness of the city for their own profiteering interests. “Tourism has forced us to realize that we have something that needs to be saved. These residents reject views that tourism promotes artificial and inauthentic attractions for inattentive tourists. slogans like the “Big Easy” distinguish the city and provide a focal point for fostering a sense of uniqueness and community pride for local people. Other residents disagree with the view that tourism corrupts culture and argue that commercialization helps broadcast local culture globally. In this interpretation. highlight. We bring things back. tourism is “hollowing out” New Orleans creating a Disney-like infrastructure that is empty of authentic content and communal value. and consuming history. Yet it is important to note that the above sentiments are not monolithic but are varied and contested. one leader of a historic preservationist group talks about her efforts to preserve the homes of old jazz musicians to raise public awareness of history and local culture. preserving their spirits in that particular place. For others. consuming music. So.A. in fact. we are. our organization is about tourism and promoting culture. corporations tap into. We also do lectures on neighborhoods. According to this person. We are educating people to the culture.” according to . and the places where jazz musicians lived. We try to preserve houses. For some residents.

fixed. By looking inward. and culture” (Interview with L. in that way. According to one leader in the local historic preservationist movement. Another person. residents fear that economic growth will bypass New Orleans and lead to cultural diminution and a declining standard of living. They may make us realized that what we have is worth preserving but it is not their job to preserve it (Interview with A. a carnival historian.H. These people fear that adhering to local sentiments and norms is insular and myopic. People came together and realized the importance and the special nature of Mardi Gras. and valuable it is. But they do when visitors come to town. I think tourism can help preserve local culture but it can also destroy local culture. “other people have made us realize that we have something valuable. A perfect example of this is was in 1979 when we had the police strike during Mardi Gras. local residents reflect on how tourism has affected meanings and definitions of local authenticity. not visitors’ job. and help preserve local celebrations like Mardi Gras. ‘well. As this person told me. These people reject totalizing views of tourism as a force of cultural erosion or demise and emphasize the benevolent and positive aspects of tourism. perhaps. Other residents see tourism as a double-edge sword that can have corrupting effects while at the same time creating the social conditions to grow and nurture new authenticities. or uniform. I guess I am so accustomed to it that I had forgotten how beautiful.’ and you say. I think visitors help us realized what we have. cemeteries. ‘that is a beautiful picture you have on the wall.F. So. Not all them participate in it and not all of them realize how important it is all the time. that is how residents of New Orleans view Mardi Gras. Yet their views are not singular.). pretty. But we cannot depend on visitors to preserve Mardi Gras that is our job. it is like when someone comes into your house and says. yea. comments below that tourism can generate public interest in local ceremonies.one leader of a local historic preservationist society. and there's a need to preserve buildings. In the following three quotes.S. It .’ I think.).

Take my block for example. Authenticity and interestingness are related.). Not just for us but for our future generations. There are people who live here who are into it but it is not exactly a cultural phenomenon in the city. They want to see and experience the city and its cultures and history. But it can also be a problem. We therefore have a financial incentive to make the city more authentic.G. As one leader of a French Quarter resident’s group put it. Our neighborhoods are a cultural treasure. Maybe your average visitor does not know it or care but I think it still matters.). It is a culture of residential life and community. for example. We can lose our history and culture if we are not careful.C.depends on how it is managed and regulated. we are getting money to create these plaques to put on houses and in the neighborhoods where jazz musicians used to live. We have different things to talk about because we come from different occupational backgrounds. This is the culture that continues to animate the French Quarter. I think that authenticity matters on its own. A socially diverse place adds to the texture of the interaction that people have in the neighborhood. Take. We are into it. Locally we have not had much of an interest in historic jazz. jazz. it really depends on where it is. . In a way. they are delicate things and worthy of preserving and cherishing. I like that the people across the street are working people and not day traders. It is not some place without residents like Disneyland. We have to maintain our authenticity and create new authentic experiences (Interview with N. People who come to New Orleans are interested in authentic experiences. tourism is helping us to create more awareness among our residents of their heritage that they may have forgotten. When you have a historic commercial corridor coming back then that helps the culture. We are building neighborhood pride and maybe some tourists will go to these places. some of them are in remote places and off the beaten track (Interview with P.

and think about new things. its art. as if it is some unchanging and static thing. then they can take that product and repackage it and make it authentic. a framing that has the power to reshape culture and nature to its own needs. and tradition. In contrast to viewing authenticity as a static category inherited from the past. I don’t think that we will ever run out of creative ideas (Interview with G. by representing culture and history in new ways. history. Rather than making the case that tourism undermines authenticity. tourism shapes and constrains meanings of authenticity. That is what is important. and emergent. 1). p. Reflecting MacCannell (1992. We have plenty of artists who are constantly representing the city in different ways and redefining it through their paintings and art. All the stuff of the city. generates local struggles and conflicts over authenticity. There is an element of tourism that corrupts culture and commercializes it. The above comments draw attention to the importance of understanding authenticity as plural. culture. According to this person. we can create new culture and heritage and we don’t freeze the past in time. contested. using tourism as vehicle for not only preserving indigenous cultures but for creating new forms of local culture. and helps create and legitimate new forms of authenticity. Peterson’s (1997) study of the historical development of country . tourism is not just an “aggregate of merely commercial activities” but also “an ideological framing of history.C. conflictual. it packages it for tourist consumption. and heritage becomes recycled again and again to create new things for locals and tourists to see. appreciate. authenticity is socially “constructed” through local peoples’ engagements with tourism sites. nature.Finally. It does all those things. the interviews suggest that tourism redefines the discourse of authenticity and helps promote the invention of authenticity.” In this sense. one person who heads a grassroots neighborhood conservation organization told me how he believes local people can appropriate the tourism for their own purposes.). So. and discourses. But then if the locals are smart enough. building on the old to create the new. sights.

”0 Yet city leaders and elites recognize that the ongoing competition for 0The New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau (http://www. Yet it is important to note that authenticity claims are not arbitrary.music suggests that authenticity is a “renewable resource” that people construct and reconstruct all the time. Neither are these claims consciously planned or strategic and intentional creations. 2005).” “Welcome to America’s most romantic. capricious. Major debates are erupting over who will lead the rebuilding. p. or spontaneous creations. identity. New Orleans. urban branding frames local debates over competing authenticity claims and serves as a basis for constructing new authenticities.com/) (Accessed December 9. which is at the core of urban branding (Hannigan 2003. in turn.neworleanscvb. The powerful forces of standardization and homogenization that characterize branding do not destroy places but cultivate and call forth new conceptions of authenticity that. mobilize people to reaffirm place distinctiveness and uniqueness. On the one hand. 354). displaced hundreds of thousands of people. following Urry (2002). Authenticity claims flow from assertions of place distinctiveness. and leisure practices. which neighborhoods be revitalized. that authenticity in New Orleans is itself becoming touristic. and problematized meanings of community identity and urban authenticity. Hurricane Katrina has destabilized the tourism industry.” “You’ll Love the New New Orleans. in the sense that the one’s engagement and interaction with others in debates about community. Today. Conclusions Debates and conflicts over branding. who examines the dedifferenentiation or implosion of tourism and other social activities. historic city. the website of the NOMCVB proudly proclaims that New Orleans is “open for business” and advertisements celebrate “The rebirth of New Orleans: Ahead of Schedule. and place distinctiveness is associated with tourism sites and sights. how the city be rebuilt. walkable. and who will be allowed to return to the city to reclaim their former homes and neighborhoods. My empirical examination suggests. there is a mix of promise and opportunity juxtaposed with fear and anxiety among people in New Orleans. and authenticity are likely to intensify as New Orleans rebuilds in the aftermath of Katrina. tourism. Currently. .

Brazil.tourist dollars and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina complicate efforts to attract tourists and revitalize the city.” “uniqueness. and galvanize support for tourism development as expedients to metropolitan rebuilding. Indeed. create value. the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation (NOTMC). upheaval. These synergies and other tourism networks have unraveled and will require extensive rebuilding in the coming years. Third. sports. In the post-Katrina era. Tourism organizations have long argued that tourism and leisure can bring people together across social and economic lines. branding requires the development of institutional “synergies” with art. instability. they are forced to expend greater public resources for commercial development and advertising to convince people that their attractions are more entertaining and more “authentic” than what other cities have to offer. a major component of urban branding involves advertising and marketing aimed at local residents to build support for tourism development. One of the irrationalities of urban branding is that as city leaders increasing build similar tourist attractions. First. Second. the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Task Force. New Orleans is a place of unpredictability.” and place “distinctiveness” to unite disparate groups of residents. and discontinuity. branding attempts to strike a balance between the security of the familiar and recognizable. Australia. cities and Mardi Gras celebrations are occurring throughout the world in places such as Rio de Janerio. and entertainment industries (Hannigan 1998. tourism agencies and cultural organizations will likely attempt to strategically deploy terms like “community. and reinforce community. . Yet jazz festivals and Mardi Gras celebrations have been copied and imitated by many cities and the images of jazz and Mardi Gras are now widely produced and consumed. and the Metropolitan Visitor and Convention Bureau (NOMCVB) have teamed to brand New Orleans as the “home” of the Essence Festival.S. Several challenges and opportunities face city leaders in their efforts to redevelop tourism and (re)brand New Orleans. 2003). In the 1990s. At present. enhance quality of life. jazz festivals are happening in many U. and Sydney. and the adventure of the eccentric and strange. An essential element of this marketing strategy is convincing the rest of the world that New Orleans is the “authentic” place for these and other festivals. like other place marketing efforts. Mardi Gras. and Jazz Fest.

Branding is not just a form of place marketing but a two-pronged political strategy to legitimize the entry of large-scale entertainment chains while providing a discourse that attempts to silence and undermine grassroots resistence to corporatized tourism.an image of poverty. the “tourist bubble. Indeed. as many scholars have recognized. 1988. The empirical analysis I have offered in this paper challenges celebratory tourism-philia accounts that emphasize the positive and beneficent aspects of urban tourism and urban branding. urban elites argue that tourism and place marketing can be the engine that drives metropolitan rebuilding. Kearns and Philo 1993. the “real” home of Mardi Gras and jazz. and theming. In this context. the future success or failure of New Orleans’s branding strategy lies in convincing tourists that New Orleans is the most “authentic” city in the United State. glitz. to be tourists your own hometown. and . While tourism advertising for years has proclaimed and branded New Orleans as a lively and entertaining city of charm and romance. housing and school segregation. The real city .with its problems. and so on . One tactic to silence and pacify resistence is to encourage residents to adopt the visual orientations of visitors. Today. chaos. and therefore worth visiting.will likely be eclipsed from view by the shadow of the branded city. inequalities.among other places. Ley and Olds 1988). In the post-Katrina era. Tourism investment in the pre-Katrina era did little to ameliorate urban problems. stimulate urban investment. local leaders and elites design and organize tourism to deflect attention away from social problems and to direct visitors to carefully surveilled and protected spaces of consumption and entertainment. neighborhoods outside the French Quarter paint a different picture of the city . Thus. and revitalize neighborhoods. and urban disinvestment. see also Harvey 1989. Yet. music. we can expect an escalation of branding efforts and greater appropriation of public resources for the development of spectacular entertainment projects and corporate-driven tourist attractions.” as Dennis Judd describes (1999. Another tactic is to use the idealized image of New Orleans’s food. city-after-city attempts to out perform the other using ever changing forms of advertising hype. city leaders will likely attempt to rebuild New Orleans to fit a series of carefully crafted branded images that reflect a highly selective reality.

and Harvey Molotch and colleagues (2000). we should examine urban “branding” as a dialectical process that involves the intersection of global forces and localized actions and organizations. scholars have challenged the validity of this cultural erosion model of tourism and attacked it as factually incorrect and self serving (for overviews. but represent a duality. trends highlighted by sociologists such as Lily Hoffman (2003). Parallel processes of standardization-distinctiveness. Branding is neither a final end-state nor a completed project. this paper provides a challenge to condemnatory tourism-phobia accounts that denounce tourism as a monolithic process of homongenization and standardization.” What unites all these place marketing strategies is the effort to develop more specialized. Despite their diverse work. see Barthel-Bouchier 2001. rationalization-uniqueness. Finally. and others drew attention to tourism as a process of cultural erosion and debasement that transforms indigenous and authentic places into saleable items (commodities) that are devoid of authenticity and collective life. pp. Still another tactic is to emphasize “family-friendly” tourism and build tourism attractions that attempt to attract “families. we should also recognize trends toward the diversification of places and the accentuation of place distinctiveness. Dean MacCannell (1992. Scholars have long maintained that a major developmental trend of tourism is the replacement of real authenticity with a “staged” authenticity in which local cultures and traditions become manufactured or simulated for tourist consumption.history to frame contemporary tourism rebuilding as a choice between urban disinvestment and economic stagnation and urban revitalization and prosperity. Shepherd 2002) . 25. 163). John Urry (2002). Future research needs to go 0In recent years. and globalization-localization are not independently given sets of phenomena. and more diverse tourist sights and sites within a commodified and rationalization system that attempts to homogenize the tourist experience. Cohen 1988. early conceptions of tourism by Daniel Boorstin (1964). The empirical account in this paper offers support to the view that branding is a conflictual and contested process of homogenizationdiversification. neither can exist without the other (Giddens 1984. more differentiated. 1976). a dualism. however. 26. Instead of talking about “branded” cities and places.0 Yet in spite of trends toward commodification and homogenization.

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