Tourism slogans are meant to sum up the appeal of destinations in just a few words, the same way a brand’s tag line does. Ideally, they are short enough to go on a hat or water bottle, but powerful enough to convey a strong emotional connection or make a pitch for why you should visit. Sometimes these destinations spend the kind of money a big brand would in order to settle on a slogan, bringing in an agency and going through tests and focus groups. All for just a few words that, as often as not, are either perplexing or just wrong.
Latin America has a long history with bad tourism slogans, stemming in part from sentiments that don’t always translate well. What may sound melodious and attractive in Spanish may sound weird or off-putting in English. The best example of this was Panama’s from the late ’00s: “Panama – it will never leave you.” The English travel press had a heyday when that was announced, with one headline saying, “Panama Picks A Tourism Slogan Reminiscent Of Childhood Trauma, STDs.” People joked that maybe it referred to a case of dengue fever or food poisoning that stuck around after you had gone home.
Thankfully, that slogan did leave us. So did the one “It’s all here in Honduras.” After the country recorded the highest murder rate in the world soon after, people started wondering what that “all” actually was.
This is not a problem unique to Latin America, of course. The tourism slogan for Morocco has been “Much Mor,” for Algeria “Tourism for Everyone,” and for Ukraine, “It’s all about U.” Apparently many destinations think they have a lock on beauty. There’s “Beautiful Bangladesh,” “It’s Beautiful – It’s Pakistan,” and “Beauty has an address” in Oman. Hey, you should “Visit Armenia – it is beautiful.”
Sometimes these tourism slogans are front and center on all the country’s printed materials, promo swag, and the website. Other times they’re buried in some government report and seldom seen again. From what we could find though, here are the current ones, from north to south on the map. Which is your favorite?
Think of Mexico
We’re not 100% sure this is the current slogan because Mexico’s president dissolved the tourism bureau and the website has been a mess ever since. With the country not attending any trade shows for years, we’re not sure what goes on the booth signs these days, but from what we can find, “Think of Mexico” seems to be the one right now. Prior to that, it was “Mexico – Live it to believe it” for years.
Central American Tourism Slogans
Guatemala – Heart of the Mayan World
Although there’s more to Guatemala than Tikal, this is a great slogan for a lot of reasons and that’s probably why they’ve stuck with it for so long. It’s been in place since before we started this publication in 2007, so no annual brochure reprinting required.
Belize – A Curious Place
Belize has been through a fair number of slogans, from the cringe-worthy “Belize it!” to the cryptic “Discover how to be” to “Mother Nature’s best-kept secret.” I guess they had to drop that last one when the cruise ships started spilling thousands of people onto the port dock.
This one doesn’t really say much, but perhaps that’s the goal. Something more concrete that highlighted the surf and turf aspect of Caribbean waters plus jungle/ruins would help sell the place more, but that’s the problem with slogans: they’re usually too short for that. This one, coupled with all the nice images on their website, does at least make you curious about what you could discover there.
Honduras – More Than a Destination
The last time I was in contact with the U.S. office of Honduras, the guy had an AOL e-mail address and the last time I got a press release from them was a decade ago, so tourism marketing and publicity are clearly not high on the priority list. Back when they were using a PR firm I got slapped on the wrist for mentioning the tourism slogan that was on my baseball hat from a previous trip in my article: ‘One small country, three big worlds.’ That was a great slogan because it nicely summed up the answer to the inevitable question, ‘Why go there?’ You go because you’ve got one of the most notable Mayan ruins sites, nature preserves, and the coral-fringed islands. So the slogan actually meant something.
Alas, I had to edit the article because the PR agency had spent tons of money on focus groups and reports to come up with a brand new slogan: ‘The Central America you know – the country you’ll love.’ What does that even mean? About as much as “more than a destination.” Couldn’t this apply to virtually anywhere? It’ll change again soon though I’m sure. Past ones have included such gems as “You can’t leave Honduras without really knowing Honduras” and “Everything is here.” (Everything? Really?!)
El Salvador – The 45-minute country
I’m quite intrigued by this one and am not really sure what it means. I’m guessing the intent is to say you can get from one side of the country to the other in 45 minutes, that it won’t take you long to tour around, but is that a good thing? What I think of instead when I see that is “There’s only enough here to occupy you for 45 minutes, then you can leave.”
I’ve never been to El Salvador and I can’t say that slogan moves the place higher up on my priority list for the future.
Nicaragua Unica… Original!
Nicaragua has stuck with some version of this slogan for at least eight years now, though I’m not really sure how effective it is. It’s hard to point to much in Nicaragua that you can’t find in at least one neighboring country. Nice beaches, check. Historic colonial city, check. Steaming volcano, check. Cigars and rum, check. They’ve got conical volcanic mountains sticking out of a massive lake though, so there’s that at least.
The description just below the slogan on their website lays it out better with more wording to work with. “In the heart of Central America, Nicaragua truly deserves the descriptive nickname of ‘The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes.’ Visitors to Nicaragua are able to enjoy the natural beauty of dozens of volcanoes, rivers, and lakes, as well as two oceans.”
Essential Costa Rica
This one has been in place for quite few years, so they must like it. The slogan seems generic and non-descriptive to me: you could slap “essential” in front of any country name since it doesn’t bring up any visual connotation. But it is usually paired with visuals like volcanoes, rainforest, adventures, or beaches. It’s probably not a bad strategy to let the images and video do the talking instead of the words.
I miss their old one though that seemed perfect: “Costa Rica – no artificial ingredients.”
Panama – Discovered by Nature
This is certainly better than “It’ll never leave you,” though I kind of liked one of their previous ones better: “Panama Surprises.” While there are some great adventure activities and nature exploration options in Panama, the country is better known for its capital city and the canal. Perhaps this is a conscious attempt to reslant the capital as an entry point rather than a destination, but it seems to ignore the big elephant in the room.
It would work better for Costa Rica since every leisure traveler immediately leaves the capital city there. Nature is the star attraction in Costa Rica, while in Panama it is (fairly or not), the secondary one for many visitors. The ideal vacation is to spend some time in the city then get on a boat: take a catamaran tour or an Uncruise adventure.
South America Tourism Slogans
Colombia – Feel the Rhythm
Colombia once had one of the most famous tourism slogans in the world, the daring “The only risk is wanting to stay.” Back when their main goal was to battle the perception that it was a dangerous land of cocaine cartels, this slogan was highly effective. Now they seem to be rotating through tourism slogans that highlight one particular aspect of the country. For several years they went with “Colombia is Magic Realism,” a nod to the strange worlds of Latin America’s well-known writer: Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
The new one seems to be a reference to the music and the exuberant people who play it, which is also a nod to someone famous: Shakira. The land of cumbia does have more great music than most countries though, even compared to others in Latin America, so it works. My guess is they’ll switch to a new tune in a year or two.
Guayana – South America Undiscovered
I like this one a lot because it plays off the fact that they’re not a mass-market tourism destination and the country is full of wild places. I haven’t been there. Have you? It’s still undiscovered.
All You Need is Ecuador
This is another one that’s so generic you could slap nearly any destination on the end. Or “love” for that matter and you’ve got a Beatles song. There’s no hint of what awaits you if you visit–in a country that has Andean peaks, Amazon basin jungle, cloudforests, and the Galapagos Islands. They’ve been using it for nearly a decade though, so they obviously like it.
Peru – The Richest Country in the World
The tourism ministry of Peru rolled this one out in late 2017 and has stuck with it since. It’s a nice play on the definition of “rich,” a nod to the fact that the countries with the wealthiest citizens aren’t necessarily the most “rich” in terms of beauty or attractions. It also makes you think of Inca gold and the cultural attractions from those ancestral people. You come here for a “trail of riches” and you leave rich in experiences.
The long-running one previously was “Peru – land of the Incas.” That was all well and good, but it left out Lima’s gastronomy, the Amazon jungle, the alpine mountaineering, the Nazca Lines, and most of the reasons you visit the north.
Brazil – Visit and Love Us
Another generic travel slogan that could apply to just about anywhere that’s an attractive destination, the opposite of “You’ll have a lousy time here.” The former one wasn’t much better: “Brazil, sensational!”
With a wacky science-denying, rainforest-destroying president at the helm and the coronavirus running rampant as I write this, it might not matter for a while anyway. Brazil is open, but not many people are lined up to visit…and love them.
Paraguay – You Have to Feel It!
Do I really? Does anyone? This doesn’t tell me anything about what’s attractive and worth visiting in a country that most people would have trouble pointing out on a map.
This is an odd choice on a whole lot of levels, especially since probably 95% of the visitors to Uruguay go to one of three places: ferry terminus Colonia, beach resort area Punta del Este, or the urban capital of Montevideo. Most of what’s “natural” in Uruguay would be cattle estancias and vineyards, not “natural” forests or jungles. I’m guessing this was chosen more for the agricultural export industry than tourism and it just got slapped on everything.
Argentina – Beats to Your Rhythm
Like Colombia’s “Feel the Rhythm,” we get a musical reference as a tourism slogan, appealing to our ears instead of our eyes. Argentina does have tango music, so it kind of makes sense, but that’s mainly a Buenos Aires thing. I don’t think of any rhythm when I picture Iguazu Falls, Salta, Mendoza, or Patagonia. As best I can tell, they’ve been using this one for at least six years though, so don’t fix what’s not broken I guess.
Dream of Chile – Where the Impossible is Possible
The longest tourism slogan on this list is bold and confident, a reference to all the epic adventure activities that await from the Atacama Desert down to the bottom of Patagonia. Most countries would say it’s impossible to increase the amount of a country’s public parkland in the 2000s or to connect every one of those parks with hiking trails in such a large country, but they’ve managed both. They made it possible.
This is a far better slogan than their previous one: “All are welcome.” Here at the bottom of the world, let’s go with bold instead of a lame doormat slogan.
What do you think? Which of these travel slogans make you want to visit?