World Travel

Worst ever travel promos

And where the bloody hell are YOU?
And where the bloody hell are YOU?
"The "sex sells" theme didn't work for Hungary, which tried to spice up the reputation of Lake Balaton with a cartoon ... of the ultra-erotic variety."

Tourist boards and PR agencies are handed millions of dollars every year to promote various destinations, hotels and airlines. Many of the promotions are brilliant — Tourism Queensland's Best Job in the World idea being a classic example. But sometimes, the marketing minds get it seriously wrong. We've picked out a few of the most dreadful, ill thought-out PR campaigns from around the world.

Baby August

Promo for where? Denmark

A spectacularly ill-judged viral campaign was launched this year by Visit Denmark, which decided to get down with the kids and post a video on YouTube. The video featured "Karen" and her baby, August. But no Daddy.

According to the video, "Karen" was a Danish girl who had met a tourist in Copenhagen and showed him some good old-fashioned Danish hospitality. She couldn't remember the lucky chap's name, but it seems as though the romantic entanglement left her with little August.

The story goes that she was trying to find the father of her child.

It was quickly discovered that the video was a hoax, "Karen" was an actress, and that Visit Denmark had paid for the whole thing.

Naturally, many Danes didn't see this as an entirely appropriate way of promoting their country, and the video was swiftly removed. Portraying a nation's ladyfolk as easy, one-night-stand junkies with little regard for contraception is probably not going to attract the right kind of tourist.

Click off to watch it below:

Adultery on a boat

Promo for where? Lake Balaton, Hungary

Another variation on the "sex sells" theme came from Hungary, which tried to spice up the reputation of Lake Balaton with a cartoon.

However, it wasn't the sort of cartoon that many of the resort owners around family-friendly Balaton may have had in mind. The short film featured a man going away for a few days with his nubile young mistress, plenty of graphic nudity and a climax in which the pair went at it, hammer and tongs, on a boat.

The campaign got plenty of coverage overseas, but conservative, Catholic Hungarians were aghast. Politicians decried the advert for encouraging sex tourism, while hotel owners and tourism operators on Balaton were worried that the campaign would start attracting hordes of bucks parties to the lake.

Click off to watch it below (warning: NSFW):

The beach photo

Promo for where? Costa Brava, Spain

The Costa Brava has long since been a popular destination for northern European package tourists, but the Costa Brava-Girona tourism board decided it wanted to promote a more remote side of the beachy strip.

So they plucked out a lovely photo from a picture agency, digitally manipulated it so that it looked as good as it could and then put it alongside the slogan: "Where does the Costa Brava start?"

And the answer, it would seem, is the Bahamas. The photo they had chosen was of a beach 12,000km away from one of the Costa Brava's actual beaches.

After she was rumbled, the director of the tourist board admitted that they couldn't find any pictures of the Costa Brava's beaches were of "sufficient quality".

Not content with this act of blatant shammery, a few weeks later, the tourist board was caught doing exactly the same thing with a photo of a beach that was actually in Perth.

Here's the Bahamas shot used. Click it to see what Costa Brava really looks like:

'Just like Malta'

Promo for where? Portsmouth, England

In a spectacularly lazy piece of advertising, Southern Railways in the UK got a little bit excited about some of the places its trains go to.

So Brighton in East Sussex became "the new Barcelona" and Chichester in West Sussex was absurdly dubbed "the new Copenhagen".

Worst of all was dubbing Portsmouth, the south-coast naval city with a not entirely unjustified reputation as a bit of a dump, as "Malta".

Malta, on the other hand, is a warm, beautiful, history-packed island in the Mediterranean.

Southern Railways tried to justify the comparison, saying: "Like Malta, it has a long naval history and beautiful coastlines, with green open spaces."

But most customers laughed, and preferred London mayor Boris Johnson's take on the city. He called it "a place that is arguably too full of drugs, obesity, underachievement and Labour MPs".

'Where the bloody hell are you?'

Promo for where? Australia

Let's not forget our own contribution to the bad tourism marketing Hall of Shame. It launched the career of Lara Bingle and 101 spoofs, but did the "Where the bloody hell are you?" campaign do Australia any good?

About $180 million was spent on the push, but with no discernable increase in visitor numbers. It didn't help that the advert was banned left, right and centre.

In the UK, the ad was stripped from billboards after complaints, and could only be shown on TV after 9pm due to the swearing.

In Asia, the punchline had to be hastily rewritten as "So where are you?" to avoid it getting the chop, while the Canadians took issue with putting half a glass of unbranded beer on display.

In short, the campaign generated lots of publicity, but not the kind that our nation necessarily wanted.

Got any other favourites to name and shame?

RELATED: Best send-up travel videos

User comments
the comment referring to Malta was actually describing Portsmouth as the dump and expressing how ridiculous it was to refer to it as "Malta". it then went on to decribe Malta as being beautiful
Where the bloody hell did $180 million dollars go? Lara Bingle's Aston Martin?
Does anyone else think that Lara Bingle looks absolutely beastly in that top photo? NO wonder people were offended she is not attractive and she's a home-wrecker!
How the hell did the 'Where the bloody hell are you" campaign cost $180mill???That is just an obscene waste of money. Some movies dont cost that much to produce?? Makes me sick to the stomach that these kind of dollars can be just squandered when there is so much need in other areas of the community - how do the people that make these decisions sleep at night?? Or are they so out of touch with reality that they truly have no idea?? Either way its an embarrassing blight on our country....
How are we supposed to "click here" to watch a video that even your article states "was swiftly removed". Am I missing something here? Also agree that Lara Bingle not the most attractive representative we could put forward! Not a dog but not a beauty either.
when i read the Uk's version of tourism i was like what the hell i was shocked when i read the line "dubbing Portsmouth, the south-coast naval city with a not entirely unjustified reputation as a bit of a dump, as "Malta". well malta is not a dump i have been there many times in my life and it is an amazing place that is full of culture, tradition and life and who judges wrongly about my malta should go and see it before making any negative comments about it , and right on greyroger of sydney, nsw adverts should be heard with word of mouth.
How about facebook, twitter, even myspace campaigns make it fun a game or something gosh these advertising people are really slow.. all the action is happening on the social media sites. make a heap of small youtube vids.. send the word around. cheapish, works, and will definately get alot more views than billboards and videos on television.
where the bloody hell are ya?.....'worst ad EVER!!'
Unless blatant false advertising is used, all tourism campaigns aim to increase visitor numbers. So in the case of the "Where the bloody hell are you?" campaign, an indiscenable increase in vistor numbers was probably more due to the fact that Australia is becoming a more expensive place to live and, hence, a more expensive place to visit. Makes sense when so many Aussies would rather travel to Thailand than the US, Denmark , Canada or Lichtensein!
Bingle's face certainly does NOT give tourists an impression of a happy, friendly place to visit. It would have been better to use a dollop of curdled cream. Her photo would be more appropriate on an ad for a massacre film.