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Accepted Paper:

Purity and Pollution: Tourism as soft power; tourism vs. soft power in Mubarak's Egypt  
Karin Ahlberg (University of Bremen)

Paper short abstract:

In the second half of the 2000s, plans to create an Egyptian nation brand placed tourism at the center. The paper explores why the soft power initiative was cancelled by the tourism authorities in fact, who feared that a nation brand risked polluting the tourism brand.

Paper long abstract:

In the 2000s, the Egyptian tourism industry became a field of contestation in the country's expansive soft power ambitions. The industry was seen as a major asset for the Mubarak regime's international statecraft; and from mid- 2000s, it became a centerpiece of the launching on an Egyptian nation brand. The initiative was however cancelled, by no other than Egypt's tourism authorities, which feared that a nation brand could pollute the country's successful tourism brand.

This paper explores this ultimately aborted initiation of Egypt's nation brand. Based on interviews with tourism actors and archival studies, it outlines how the Egyptian regime and other governmental sectors strove to benefit from Egypt's tourism industry, by employing tourism as soft power. Since early 2000s, the regime had made used the industry's image of global openness and hospitality to purify Egypt's international reputation. In the creation of a common nation brand - encompassing tourism, trade and other sectors - this logic was meant to be further implemented: tourism had the potential to overshadow some less shiny sides of Egyptian statecraft, such as human rights violation, economic inefficiency and widespread corruption. Tourism authorities, however, refused such merging on the basis that a nation brand could pollute and damage Egypt's tourism brand and Egypt's tourism image, which they had worked hard to sanitize and promote. Thinking through this contestation in terms of purity and pollution, the paper brings insights into internal power struggles between image-making on the national level and individual sector brands.

Panel P134
What is soft about soft power? Critical engagements with an emerging form of statecraft
  Session 1 Friday 17 August, 2018, -