Monday, August 9, 2010

I know some tourism ads exaggerate, but this is ridiculous

In the process of writing my post on Virtual Brisbane, I encountered a Brisbane tourism page from WorldGuides. Now I have never been to Brisbane, or to Australia, but something about this text struck me as funny.

Brisbane is an important, historic city and Brisbane is overflowing with breathtaking landmarks and monuments, such as Brisbane's Anzac Square, Brisbane City Hall, Story Bridge and Brisbane's striking Parliament House.

And I began wondering if WorldGuides used the same template for every city. I could see it now: "Los Angeles is an important, historic city and Los Angeles is overfloring with breathtaking landmarks and monuments, such as City Hall, the Hollywood sign, and Los Angeles' striking Farmers Market."

As it turns out, my assumption was wrong - something that I easily checked by reading up on Arlington, Virginia.

Famous for being home to the vast Arlington National Cemetery, featuring the grave of famous US president J. F. Kennedy, Arlington lies in the state of Virginia (VA). Standing just a few miles from nearby Washington DC, across the scenic Potomac River, Arlington was once part of the District of Columbia, in the first part of the 19th century.

Also close to Alexandria, Arlington has a distinctive skyline, many impressive places to visit and plenty of sightseeing opportunities for visitors. Arlington is particularly well placed for day trips and excursions, and also offers world-class shopping facilities and countless historical buildings and landmarks.

Now I lived in Arlington for nearly a decade, and I was struck by the tone of some of the statements in the description. Who refers to our 35th President as "J.F."? And is Pentagon City truly a "world-class shopping" facility?

But the one that really struck me was the reference to the "distinctive skyline." A little local history is in order. In 1899, Congress (who exerts significant control over the city of Washington, DC) passed the Heights in Buildings Act which effectively prevented skyscrapers within the District of Columbia's limits. Now Arlington is outside of the District of Columbia (and has been since 1846), but the Pentagon was obviously designed by the same folks that govern construction of buildings in Washington, so the Pentagon didn't become a skyscraper. The only "skyline" worth mentioning in Arlington is in the Rosslyn area, and I don't know that it qualifies as "distinctive" - though it's obviously more distinctive than the DC skyline.

So it appears that tourism ads exaggerate in the same way that real estate ads exaggerate (see my March 2009 post).

But at least WorldGuides didn't talk about the 380 degree view.

[Picture source, license]
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