Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Dracula's Image in Tourism: Western Bloggers versus Tour Guides

Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Dracula's Image in Tourism: Western Bloggers versus Tour Guides

Article excerpt

Introduction

The value of the destination image to the local destination marketing organizations and other destination promoters is incontestable due to its power to attract more tourists to the area. Fakeye and Crompton (1991) note that images are of paramount importance to destinations because they have the power to change and rearrange the tourists' impressions and perceptions of a destination and "give him or her a pre-taste of the destination" (p. 10). The traveller's image of a destination is built not only on past experiences and marketing communications, but also on non-promotional media such as films, novels and television shows.

Squire (1996) notes that literary tourism - a form of tourism inspired by novels and poetry - "is premised upon the public's desire to experience a version of the past (or imagined present) and to make connections between past and present, fact and fiction. It, therefore, trades in images and expectations of people, places and particular historic periods" (p. 129). The image of a destination can therefore be based on images being portrayed in movies and novels, but also on the tourists' interpretation of these images and their expectations of these images to be seen at the destination.

The destination images held by consumers are so powerful that they can either benefit the country or have a negative impact. In order to benefit the destination, images have to be distinctive, appealing, simple, and most importantly, believable and should be based on reality (Kotler and Gertner 2004). However, because authenticity is a widely subjective concept, any image can be perceived as authentic depending on whom the viewer is.

The main objectives of this study are to analyse destination images related to Dracula tourism as portrayed by Western tourists on their Internet blogs, and to explore how tour guides working at Bran Castle have responded to these images.

The paper is divided into seven sections. After an introduction to Dracula tourism in section two, section three includes an overview of the destination image, literary tourism and authenticity literature. Section four describes the research and analysis methods, while section five presents the findings. Section six involves a discussion of the findings as they relate to the literature review and section seven presents the conclusions of the study and possibilities for future research.

Contextual setting

Historical, literary and film background

In Western culture, Transylvania has long been a place of profound images related to vampires and dark forces. These images have resulted in the portrayal of a beautiful Romanian region as one of the most sinister and mysterious regions in Europe: Transylvania, the land of Dracula. As supernatural as some might think Dracula is, he was a real person - a ruler in Wallachia, now a province of Romania called Muntenia. Born circa 1430 in Sighisoara, Romania, Vlad Tepes was the son of Vlad Dracul, the ruler of Wallachia (Newman, 2004). Acts of brutality against Turkish invaders and boyars have been used by Dracula in an attempt to keep traitors away and discourage the Ottoman Empire to fight over his territory. Dracula's massive killings were not necessarily what shocked the society; "he gained notoriety for his exceptionally harsh rule and his practice of impaling both lawbreakers and his Ottoman enemies on wooden stakes" (Light, 2007, p. 750).

However, a novel written in the 19th century would change the historical figure into a mythical vampire. Bram Stoker's novel, written in 1897 in London, England portrays a Victorian vampire able to keep itself immortal by drinking the blood of humans (Ronay, 1972). Stoker gives his character a Transylvanian identity and endows him with vampire like characteristic such as "pointed ears and protruding canine....coarse, broad hands with squat fingers - as werewolves are described. His palms, too, are hairy and the nails cut to a sharp point. …

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