World leaders, especially those of developing countries, tend to be concerned with their country's media image during conflicts and disasters. These leaders often believe that a negative media image can lead to a tourism crisis and loss of international standing. Using qualitative content analysis, press interviews with officials, and examinations of media policy, this study aims to uncover the strategies used to handle the international media and to affect nations' media representations during and following tourism crises. The “multistep model for altering place image” is the central theoretical framework. The study's analysis illustrates the use of seven strategies by the governments of developing countries: buying news space, developing media relations, raising general and specific complaints about the media, applying economic and physical threats, blocking media access, and using testimonies and the Internet.

Leaders of developing countries are often concerned with the negative public image of their countries among Western audiences.1 This concern increases in light of news reports of crisis events such as terror attacks, violent conflicts, natural disasters, or human rights abuses that reinforce existing stereotypes, generalizations, and negative perceptions toward the developing world.2 One of the main reasons why leaders of developing countries focus on their country's image stems from their understanding that a negative image among world public opinion is an obstacle to the arrival of tourists, companies, and investors, and can lead to sanctions against a country in the UN Security Council or the International Court.

Naturally enough, leaders from Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America want the international media's coverage of disasters, conflicts, and crises in their countries to use visuals, terminology, quotations, and media frames that would strengthen their points of view and promote narratives of their own countries.3 For example, in a reported conflict between two countries or between a country and non-state actors (NSAs), they want their countries described as the “good guy” to which no blame will be attributed.4 Since the Western media is not necessarily committed to these leaders' wishes, a conflict can easily arise between the two sides. This conflict is particularly salient between the international media and the developing world, which has serious challenges in promoting the free flow of information and a free press. The methods frequently used by the developing world to deal with this challenge have not been the subject of much research to date.

Using qualitative content analysis of news reports, press interviews, and official media policy adopted by developing countries' governments, the goal of this study is to uncover the strategies used by leaders of developing countries to handle the international media and affect their media representation during and following tourism crises. Our central theory will be the theoretical framework “multistep model for altering place image,”5 offering three types of strategies for officials in order to repair a place's negative image during and after a tourism crisis (source, message, and audience).

Image Repair Theory

The theory of image repair, relying on apologia theory, aims to understand how organizations, companies, and brands determine a threat to reputation or image, the audience that must be addressed, and the image repair strategies to use before, after, and during the crisis.6 This theory can help us comprehend how the leaders of developing countries generally try to restore their countries' image during wars, epidemics, conflicts, and other crises; it also aids us to understand how these leaders specifically treat the Western media. The theory of image repair includes several models7 that suggest a number of strategies. Avraham and Ketter,8 building on strategies mentioned in former models, developed the “multistep model for altering place image,” which focuses only on image repair of places. Their model lists three types of strategies to repair place image; these strategies will concentrate on either a particular target audience, source of the negative image, or the negative message itself. In this study, we would like to focus only on the source strategies. We will concentrate on the attempts by a country's leaders or officials to change, overcome, or influence the offending source that has “spread” or is perceived to have “spread” the negative image; we will specifically focus on the international media, which is often perceived by many leaders of developing countries as the source responsible for the negative image.

Countries' Public Relations

Kotler, Haider, and Rein9 define public relations (PR) as “the effort to build good relations with the organization's public by obtaining favorable publicity; building up a good public image; and handling or heading off unfavorable rumors, stories and events.” PR is a key ingredient in the promotion of countries, and its major tools are press/media relations, event publicity, and lobbying activity. It is generally accepted that when a PR expert succeeds in getting a positive story in the news media, it has a positive effect on the country's image. In general, PR people work on both the good and the bad sides of their country's media image.10

PR professionals' main efforts are focused on promoting the country's positive side and preventing or mitigating the fallout of negative news published about the destination. Such negative news may be about violence, crime, or the lack of safety, which might cause the country to be perceived by potential tourists as dangerous and not safe for investments. In addition to developing media relations, PR experts also consult the country's leaders and managers about their media appearance, researching and collecting data about the country's image, producing events and festivals, and conducting lobbying. PR on behalf of a country is crucial, particularly at times of sudden crisis such as wars, waves of crime/violence, acts of terror, and natural disasters.11 Leaders also invest in PR in order to protect and restore their own public and media image, which might be damaged due to how they handle (or mishandle) the crisis.12

Government–Media Relations

People construct perceptions according to the data they receive from various direct and indirect sources; many state officials believe that accurate information about their state results in more precise images.13 The role of the mass media in constructing states' public images is crucial. Many leaders believe that positive coverage can result in more tourism, investments, and commerce, as well as improved international status.14 Therefore, states' leaders try to influence the media's work routines and activities in order to affect the coverage patterns they receive and their resulting image in the eyes of international audiences.

The attempt to influence a target audience during times of war started centuries ago, and began being practiced on a large scale during the two World Wars, during which the combatants invested considerable efforts into the promotion of distorted and biased media coverage for propaganda purposes. Since then, the concept of “media war” has taken root primarily among countries fighting each other not only on the battlefield but also via their media coverage in the international media. Hence states have developed ways to influence coverage of certain issues, information to be included in news stories, uses of language and terminology, source selection, highlighting issues or various visuals, and framing events. There are many studies that focus on coverage and framing of conflicts and crises in the international media.15

Coverage of Developing Countries in the International Media

The discussion about the developing world's coverage usually deals primarily with the nature and quantity of coverage patterns in the international news media. We would like to concentrate on the lack of balance in the news exchange between developed and developing nations that began after World War II.16 Until the 1990s, this imbalance was reflected in the low coverage of developing countries in the international media and the coverage's content: when these countries were mentioned in the media, the coverage tended to focus on negative issues and on crisis events such as wars, outbreaks of diseases, earthquakes, and floods.17 This tendency was named “the natural disasters and revolutions syndrome” and, according to Goren,18 characterizes the coverage of the developing world; African countries, for example, get international news coverage only if they suffer from natural disasters or experience revolutions.19

Things are starting to change, however, regarding the developing world's narrow image, negative stereotypes, and generalizations.20 Since the 1990s, we have seen a sharp decrease in the number of Western reporters covering the developing world for news agencies. As a result, more and more local journalists have been employed by news agencies and these local journalists have started to diversify the image of the developing world in the international news. This diversity has had an impact on the developing world's image: it no longer consists primarily of reports about wars, natural disasters, and epidemics, but now includes more positive news items, such as those about local culture and business initiatives.21 In addition, new international TV networks (such as Al-Jazeera and Xinhua) have begun gathering news about the developing world from a wider perspective and now see the local African audience as one of the target audiences that should be addressed.22 Many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), religious groups, politicians, business people, exiles, and young new-media activists have also started investing efforts to promote a better image of the developing world, mainly through use of new and social media.

According to Avraham and Ketter,23 there are seven factors that construct the developing countries' image: the geographical distance of the developing world from the international media headquarters, problematic news definitions, the small number of reporters allocated to cover the developing world, the fact that the developing world is covered by Western journalists who concentrate on the audience “back home” while covering remote places,24 the perception that residents of the developing world are not the target audience of the international media, the low social–political–economic status of this world, and the ineffective PR efforts made by developing countries. As discussed by many authors,25 the media tend to follow the powerful and high-status actors who gain media coverage. It appears that this tendency affects the news definition, willingness to assign correspondents to cover a certain place, the characteristics of the reporters who are assigned to cover the place, and the definition of the target audience.


The following questions were asked to uncover the policy and strategies employed by developing countries' officials toward the international media during crises:

  • RQ1 How did developing countries' officials cooperate and develop media relations with the international media during and after tourism crises?

  • RQ2 How did developing countries' officials pressure the international media in order to promote their point of view during tourism crises?

  • RQ3 Which tools were used to replace and bypass the international media while trying to reach the Western audience?

In order to uncover the media policy and strategies used by developing countries, the study conducted a qualitative content analysis of three marketing tools: (1) press interviews with developing countries' officials; (2) news reports about conflicts, disasters, and crises in the developing world; and (3) official media policy adopted by developing countries (e.g., boycotting or arresting journalists). The use of these tools was examined in three groups of sources between 2005 and 2015: (1) News reports about tourism to developing countries that were published in five central international media outlets: the BBC, the New York Times (NYT), Associated Press (AP), Ha'aretz, and Time Magazine. These media outlets are among the leading newspapers in the world and provide a comprehensive view on global affairs. (2) eTurboNews, the global tourism news website (http://eturbonews.com), established in October 2007; it is considered to be one of the main websites covering global tourism and followed by a large portion of the global tourism industry. (3) Academic research and articles that analyze ways in which developing world leaders treat the international media. Taken collectively, these sources, during the years of study, give us a deep perspective of leaders' efforts to influence the international media's news reporting methods; once it was determined that a listed source had a relevant case study, deeper analysis was then done in all the available sources. The marketing strategies behind restoring the place's image were analyzed once the data from the various sources were collected.

Qualitative content analysis focused on meanings of words and visuals, such as metaphors, motifs, labels, definitions, pictures, logos, symbols, slogans, and generalizations to provide the social–cultural context in which texts and visuals are produced as well as to reveal the general discourse patterns.26 The belief is that these discourse patterns characterize a specific factor, body, or place and inform us about ways in which they interpret the world and their specific point of view.27

The definition of “developing countries,” also known as “less-developed countries,” is considered a serious challenge, because there is no commonly agreed-upon definition and each institution defines the term according to different indicators. The UN and World Bank list the number of such countries as ranging from 104 to 152. The division between “developing countries” and “developed countries” over the years was made according to various indexes and criteria such as gross domestic product (GDP), gross national income (GNI), Human Development Index (HDI), life expectancy, education and literacy rates, income, and fertility rates. We would like to adopt the list of countries considered to be developing economies according to the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook Report from April 2015.28 This list includes countries from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. It also includes a number of countries with “advanced economies” such as China, India, Russia, Turkey, and Brazil. In addition, under the UN's current classification, all the countries of Europe and North America, along with Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, are considered to be “developed countries.”

We included in our analysis any case studies that had the potential to cause damage to any developing country's image. Such damage can be the result of negative events like disasters, local political disorder, violent conflicts, terror attacks, or other crises. In other words, whenever a country experienced that which Avraham and Ketter29 call an “image crisis,” which can lead to a tourism crisis, diplomatic crisis, or prolonged negative image, and when officials needed to work hard to repair the country's image, the case was analyzed. From the analysis of the case studies in this research, it seems that most of the activities of the countries' leaders occurred primarily during times of tourism crisis. Tourism is a major source of revenue for developing countries and a decrease in tourism figures deepens any economic crisis that the countries are experiencing. It is most likely for this reason that the leaders felt the need to act against the Western media to prevent or reduce the damage caused by the crisis.


The analysis shows that seven types of source strategies were used by marketers of developing countries to handle the international media, as we can see in Table 1.


Seven kinds of source strategies chosen by developing countries' leaders

Buying news space Purchase of television/radio airtime or newspaper space 
Developing media relations and reactions to news items 
  • (a) Direct techniques (letters to the editor, posts, reactions to news items, and op-eds)

  • (b) Non-direct techniques (press conferences, press releases, giving interviews, and making connections between reporters and sources)

Raising general and specific complaints about the media 
  • (a) General complaints about the media

  • (b) Complaints toward the media in a certain country

  • (c) Boycott a “biased” media outlet

Applying economic threats  
Applying physical threats  
Blocking media access 
  • (a) Blocking sites and social media

  • (b) Blocking access to events and conflict areas

Using the Internet and testimonies as an alternative source 
  • (a) The Internet and social media platforms, YouTube channel, webcam

  • (b) Testimonies of celebrities/opinion leaders and tourists

Buying news space Purchase of television/radio airtime or newspaper space 
Developing media relations and reactions to news items 
  • (a) Direct techniques (letters to the editor, posts, reactions to news items, and op-eds)

  • (b) Non-direct techniques (press conferences, press releases, giving interviews, and making connections between reporters and sources)

Raising general and specific complaints about the media 
  • (a) General complaints about the media

  • (b) Complaints toward the media in a certain country

  • (c) Boycott a “biased” media outlet

Applying economic threats  
Applying physical threats  
Blocking media access 
  • (a) Blocking sites and social media

  • (b) Blocking access to events and conflict areas

Using the Internet and testimonies as an alternative source 
  • (a) The Internet and social media platforms, YouTube channel, webcam

  • (b) Testimonies of celebrities/opinion leaders and tourists


1. Buying news space

With this strategy, leaders try to deliver positive messages regarding their country and to use visuals, terminology, quotations, and media frames that would strengthen their points of view and narratives. In other words, by buying television/radio airtime or newspaper space, leaders and marketers are able to deliver any message they like, free of the constraints of journalists and editors. In his book, Kunczik30 details several cases in which countries bought news space in international newspapers such as the NYT, the Herald Tribune, and the Economist. In doing so, leaders and marketers try to transform their country's image, but they also aim to challenge the common image of the country as it is portrayed by the international media. It is important to note that in this analysis, “buying news space” is distinguished from buying space for a regular advertisement campaign. Unlike an advertisement campaign, the message published in a news space is much more informative, more straightforward, and frequently is written in the form of an article. In addition, the paid advertisement is designed like a newspaper column to give the reader the impression that he or she is reading an objective article rather than consuming a commercial.

Ten years ago, the image of Kazakhstan was perceived to be attacked by the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, playing the role of a fictional Kazakh journalist named Borat. In his film Borat, Baron Cohen presented the people of Kazakhstan as primitive, racist, and uneducated. Trying to restore its image, Kazakhstan bought a set of news spaces in the NYT on several occasions; it did so in an attempt to replace the messages delivered by Baron Cohen. In the news space, the Kazakh government emphasized its democracy, education system, approach to women's rights, and the modern lifestyle in “Cosmo-politic Kazakhstan,” as well as the good relations between the United States and Kazakhstan.31

2. Media relations and reactions to the news items

The mass media are one of the most dominant factors in shaping the ways in which certain conflicts, countries, and events will be perceived by the audience, as mentioned previously. In other words, a country or its leaders' image in the media is mediated by news people. To enhance the media coverage of a country, officials try to affect journalists and editors, and use a variety of techniques in order to influence their coverage. We can classify leaders and PR people's attempts to improve the image of a country in the media as using direct and non-direct techniques. Direct techniques include sending letters to the editor and publishing posts and reactions to news items on the newspapers' websites. Recently it was published in the international press that China and Russia are using “an army of trolls” that send posts and reactions to sites and social networks in order to improve the image of their countries.32 Another tool is op-eds that are written by states' leaders (or by their PR people) and submitted for publication in the international press. These pieces usually include developing countries leaders' point of view, narratives, or interpretations of conflicts, crises, and events. A non-direct technique to influence news coverage and gain better access to the media is by establishing rapport with the newspeople. And indeed, in many cases developing countries cooperate with the free foreign/Western media.

Thailand is a great example of a country trying to develop a positive relationship with the international media. Since the military coup of 2006, Thailand has witnessed continued unrest with political instability, huge antigovernment demonstrations in the years 2008–2011, and another military coup in 2014.33 In an attempt to re-establish a positive image of the country, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) initiated the “Thailand's Best Friends Forever Mega Fam Trip” in July 2014. Almost 1,000 travel reporters, bloggers, travel executives, and famous people were hosted at the event; the purpose of the event was to reassure tourists that the industry had been positively re-established and that they could return to Thailand without worry. Re-establishing confidence, the Tourist Authority and its governor sought to put any remaining qualms to rest. “The event aims to communicate a feeling that everything is back to normal and that the national atmosphere is back to its usual vibrant, fun-loving self. This will help restore visitors' confidence and bring them back to the ‘Land of Smiles.’”34

Most Middle Eastern countries, while not having freedom of expression or a free press, have also realized that it is necessary for them to work with the free international media if the goal is to improve their countries' images. Being available to respond during crises, holding press conferences, releasing statements, being interviewed, and being a source of information are all evidence of the cooperative spirit. This has even included occasional trips for journalists both during periods of calm35 and unrest. In Egypt, for example, during the Arab Spring demonstrations and demands for political change,36 the tourism ministry planned press trips to its showpiece cultural tourist sites while also managing a publicity campaign to counter perceived exaggerated accounts. It was “designed to convey what is really happening on the ground,” as opposed to overblown accounts provided by some media outlets. Similarly, Jordan organized a North American media trip during the Arab Spring to have them witness events firsthand.37 In 2012, the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC), in an effort to both restore the country's positive image and to deal with the perception of “danger,” coordinated media trips.38 Likewise, since 2001, Lebanon's Paris tourism office has arranged media trips for top French media outlets in order to expand viewpoints and perspectives. According to the head of the tourism office, when a major media outlet reports positively about a country, smaller media outlets do the same.39

3. General and specific complaints about a certain media outlets

The danger of cooperation with the free media, however, is that the media may publish negative reports with their consequent effect on the country's image. In such cases, one of the source strategies used by the leaders of developing countries is to complain about “distorted” Western media coverage. In such cases, these leaders complain that there is an exaggeration in the media coverage of a crisis's severity, reportedly favoring the narrative or version of a rival, or focusing on negative or sensational issues that present their countries as the “bad guy” that should be blamed for the conflict. Hachten illustrates these complaints on the part of African leaders: “Increasingly, Africa views foreign correspondents as a nuisance. They distort the news, governments argue, by dwelling on the negative and sensational—or, at least, by raising issues that are best ignored in the interests of a developing nation.”40

The complaints of the leaders in the developing world are divided into three techniques: general complaints about the media's negative coverage, complaints directed directly to the media outlets in a certain country, and complaints that lead to the ending of cooperation with the media outlet that is accused of bias and distorted coverage.

a. General complaints about the media—Developing countries' officials complain regularly about the distorted coverage of their country in the Western media. For example, the Iraqi government opened a channel on YouTube in order to “fight the media's lies.”41

b. Complaints toward the media in a certain country—In addition, officials sometimes direct their complaints toward certain media outlets outside the country. For example, the Tunisian finance minister complained about the French media treating his country “as if it's Afghanistan.”42 Similarly, in speaking to Italian tour organizers, the Egyptian foreign minister spoke about the negative treatment of Egypt by Italian media during the events in Tahrir Square.43 In the same manner, Prime Minister Erdoğan of Turkey attacked the NYT during the national election, claiming that “they serve the Washington's government, against me and against Turkey.”44 Likewise, the Qatari government, since the establishment of Al-Jazeera TV in 1996, has received over 450 diplomatic complaints, mostly from Arab states, for “assaulting Arab leaders.”45

c. Boycott a “biased” media outlet—Here we can find leaders who strongly believe that the international media is biased, and as a result, they stop cooperating with reporters. Johnston,46 for example, demonstrates how pro-Assad civilians and Syrian government officials were increasingly unwilling to speak to the international media reporters or were incommunicado because they felt that these reporters were biased while covering the conflict there. Egypt also boycotted the Al-Jazeera TV network—and then arrested some of the reporters and sent them to prison—for spreading “lies about Egypt” during 2014.47

4. Applying economic threats

In many cases, officials in developing countries tried to prevent being covered in the media in an unflattering light by threatening to cause the news media people economic damage. These officials hoped that the huge compensations they were seeking from the international court for the “incorrect or bias coverage” in a certain media outlet would threaten journalists and prevent them from covering certain phenomena or events. For example, asserting that a news item on female circumcision was damaging to the country's image, the Egyptian government sued CNN for half a billion dollars.48 Another example is that of Prime Minister Erdoğan of Turkey who promised to sue The Times for describing him as “a dictator.”49 Erdoğan continued to intimidate journalists and other opinion leaders who criticized him or his policies by using economic threats during the subsequent years. Erdoğan was hoping that the threat to sue journalists and thus cause them financial damage would deter them from publishing negative reports about him or describing him in unflattering terms.

5. Applying physical threats

In addition to economic threats, leaders sometimes use physical threats and violence in order to prevent negative coverage. Waisbord50 defines antipress violence as “attacks through verbal intimidation and physical harm inflicted on reporters and journalists' organizations.” Hachten51 describes many cases and testimonies of foreign correspondents that depict physical as well as economic threats by government officials from some African countries. These are journalists who might have had their homes and offices searched or who might have been sanctioned by expulsion, arrest, interrogation, jail, or restricted access.52 This kind of treatment toward foreign journalists is not unique to Africa. In April 2016, for example, a Dutch-Turkish journalist was arrested for tweeting and writing articles against Erdoğan.53

Contemporary evidence for claims on antipress behavior in the developing world can be found in the World Press Freedom Index (WPFI)—an annual index published by the Reporters without Borders NGO that measures the degree of freedom that news professionals and private Internet users enjoy in most countries of the world. The subindex of abuse in the WPFI measures the level of violence and harassment toward reporters. It continually shows that the situation in the developing world is problematic.54

In our analysis we discovered that many countries often employed threats against reporters. For example, a news item on torture that aired on the Al-Jazeera TV network led to the arrest of the reporter by the Egyptian police in January 2007. Another example occurred during the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza; the international Foreign Press Association publicly accused Hamas of employing “blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox methods” against journalists in order to prevent them from covering the launching of Hamas missiles from populated areas or showing the use the local population as a human shield.55 It seems that this declaration did not help because in June 2016 Hamas continued to harass and threaten journalists; it arrested and tortured the Iraqi TV reporters who criticized the inability of the Hamas to restore Gaza's economic situation to normalcy56 as well as bloggers reporting from Gaza.

There are many more cases of physical threats against reporters. The Al-Jazeera network has been accused of inciting events in nearly every Middle Eastern country in which there were unsettled political tensions. Supporters of the Palestinian Authority chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, claimed that Al-Jazeera was endeavoring to harm his position. As a result, they attacked the channel's offices in Ramallah.57 The offices of this network, in response to threats and violence during the start of the anti-Mubarak protests, were also closed in Egypt and Lebanon.58 Eighteen months later, the Egyptian military government, again responding to “unsympathetic” media, closed Al-Jazeera once more along with Mubashir Misr and Islamist channels,59 asserting that they “damage national security” and “promote propaganda against Egypt in foreign countries.”60 In addition, many foreign reporters were tagged as “spies” and were expelled from the country.61 In June 2016, Egypt sentenced two Al-Jazeera reporters to death following charges that they passed “national security documents to Qatar” and its flagship news station.62

6. Blocking media access

Developing countries have also chosen at times to fully or partially block media access to events that might have a negative effect on their countries' images. Developing countries operate two types of blocking media access strategies. The first is to block websites and social media in order to prevent the acceptance and transfer of information about what is happening in their country, or information that could lead to riots, hurt feelings, and so on. This can be found in many countries, usually in times of crisis, which block Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter for either long or short periods of time.63 The other type of blocking is the closing of certain areas or events to reporters in order to avoid any media coverage. While foreign reporters might enter countries, their access to news sources and officials is restricted.

Palestinian officials, in the last twenty years, have often resorted to this tactic. For example, on September 11, 2001, Palestinian security officers successfully stopped news coverage by threatening the life of an AP television cameraman in Nablus after he shot a celebratory video of locals concerning the 9/11 attacks against the United States. AP's decision to not broadcast the video was directly connected to this threat and the decision by AP to minimize the danger to their local crew. At roughly the same time, in an effort to prevent media reporting, journalists covering pro–Bin Laden demonstrations in Gaza were detained and all their equipment was confiscated.64 It is not only the media that is on the receiving end of this tactic; any source that spreads negative messages, including human rights organizations, peace activists, the UN, or the International Court is treated similarly. For example, Human Rights Watch officials were barred from entering Egypt after claims were made by this organization against Egyptian president Assisi for committing crimes against humanity when he was head of the army.65

The People's Republic of China has also imposed similar restrictions on foreign journalists in an effort to bar or severely restrict negative foreign reporting. In 2006, for example, in order to implement restrictions, local and international journalists were arrested and huge online website monitoring efforts were undertaken with the hiring of thousands of government officials to staff the efforts.66 In March 2008, the Chinese government, trying to stop users from uploading photos and videos of Tibetan demonstrations, blocked journalist access as well as access to social media sites including YouTube.67 Some foreign reporters were arrested and questioned by police. Other reporters claimed to have been followed by the Chinese police and to have had their e-mail accounts hacked.68 In yet another report, the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China claimed that the Chinese authorities had sought to intimidate reporters and influence coverage by withholding visa permits and barring journalists from visiting much of the country.69 Similarly, the Ukrainian government publishes “a black list” of people and organizations, including forty-one journalists who are not welcome in their country.70

7. Using testimonies and the Internet as an alternative source

Another strategy to influence a country's image is to bypass the international media and use alternative sources to reach and touch the target audience, as use of alternative media becomes more common among audiences. Leaders of developing world countries try to do this by using two alternative sources that would do a better job at spreading “the truth” about their country, especially during conflicts, crisis, and wars.71 Here, we discover two techniques: first, using the Internet and social media platforms and second, bringing testimonies of celebrities/opinion leaders, tourists, and tourism industry employees.

a. The Internet and social media platforms—Many developing countries, in the face of a lack of access to international media or lack of funding for media campaigns, turn to the Internet and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in order to improve their image and broaden support. This allows them to bypass traditional media while still reaching the target audience. Ketter and Avraham72 bring many examples of sub-Saharan African countries using websites in order to cast positive images and to distribute positive news about their countries' culture, arts, fashion, music, and cuisine.

Similarly, in 2011, India launched an online photo competition, the “Eventful India” campaign; this contest was aimed at encouraging tourism to India by highlighting festivals and events. In the campaign, Internet users were encouraged to take photographs of the almost daily ethnic, religious, and cultural events and submit them to the contest's website. According to those spearheading the campaign, these events were lively and exceptional, creating a unique experience and living up to the promise of the “Incredible India” brand. The contest projects India as a cultural destination for both Indian and international travelers, emphasizing the deep and meaningful culture of the subcontinent.73 By running the campaign on the Internet, the organizers attempt to work around the negative images of poverty, underdevelopment, and child mortality that are often reported in the mass media.74

This strategy has also been used in the Middle East. The Iraqi government, for example, created a YouTube channel to “fight the media's lies.”75 Ten Jordanian government agencies signed a $10 million agreement with Google Services to advertise and promote Jordan as a travel destination;76 in December 2011, Jordan sponsored a social media campaign run by travel bloggers who have toured Jordan.77 Tunisia's national tourism board initiated official Facebook and Twitter pages to highlight various tourism sites and to encourage visitors to share their videos and pictures of the North African country.78 The Egyptian tourism minister appeared in a YouTube video, asking foreign travel agencies to encourage the lifting of negative travel advisories by their respective governments.79 Egypt also used YouTube to restore video-sharing sites to disseminate information deemed necessary for recovery from the tourism crisis.80 The negative image crisis that began with the Arab Spring and continued with mass demonstrations, fighting in the streets, civil war, a military coup, political unrest, and terror attacks saw a very sharp decrease in the number of Western tourists.81 Egypt's reaction has been to intensify the use of this strategy.

Another tool used in this strategy operates on the principle of presenting reality without the mediation of the traditional media, including the use of webcams. These cameras, set up at familiar tourist sites and broadcast over the Internet, demonstrate to mostly Western tourists that these sites are still safe and full of activity; Egypt and Jordan, for example, have placed webcams at their main tourism spots just for these reasons.82

b. Testimonies of celebrities/opinion leaders and tourists—In addition to the Internet, tourism destinations can use other sources to reach the target audience. Such sources can be celebrities/opinion leaders and tourists who address the target audience and testify from their experience that the place has overcome a certain crisis and it is back to “business as usual.”

From 2011 to 2015, Kenya suffered from a series of deadly terror attacks. In order to restore its positive image and re-attract tourists, the Kenya Tourism Board launched a social media recovery campaign in June 2014. Using the theme “#WhyILoveKenya,” the country invited everyone concerned with tourism and Kenya to “tell the world about the uniqueness of the country and how tourism business activities are ongoing despite the travel advisories.”83 In the campaign, Internet users were encouraged to upload stories, pictures, and videos of their peaceful visits to Kenya, using the hashtag “#WhyILoveKenya.”

Another tourism campaign was “The Ultimate Thailand Explorers.” In September 2009, the Thailand Authority of Tourism launched a social media campaign contest aimed at drawing attention to the country's leading attractions: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, and the islands of Phuket and Koh Samui. At first, it invited users from around the world to submit an application video to be rated by other users. Five teams, from amongst the highest online voting scores, were then grouped together and awarded a cash prize and six days of a dream holiday around Thailand where they could explore the many attractions, sights, activities, and other features found there. As part of the conditions for the awards, the contestants were required to share their daily experiences with the global audience by posting photos, videos, blogs, and travel stories using social media tools. The goals of this initiative were to promote tourism, to inspire other global travelers to learn more about Thailand, and to have these travelers visit the country's top attractions. According to Thailand's Tourism Deputy Governor for Policy and Planning, 250,000 people visited the campaign's website and there were over 600,000 views of the participants' videos.84

In addition to “The Ultimate Thailand Explorers” campaign, Thailand was engaged in several other online initiatives to promote international tourism. In 2008, its tourism numbers had dropped as a result of the country's ongoing political unrest.85 As a response, the Thailand Tourism Authority launched two social media campaigns aimed at improving the country's image. The first was “Amazing Thailand—An amazing experience photo contest,” an online initiative in which tourists were encouraged to post video clips from their visit to Thailand. In return, the Authority (TAT) awarded prizes including digital cameras, smartphones, and hotel packages. According to TAT, the video contest was aimed at creating “an inspiration for the online tourists around the world to visit Thailand.”


In this article, we examined the strategies used by officials in developing countries in order to influence their country's coverage patterns in the international media during and after conflicts, tourism crises, and disasters. The analysis shows that seven types of source strategies were used by developing countries' marketers to handle the international media: (1) buying news space, (2) developing media relations and reactions to the news items, (3) raising general and specific complaints about the media, (4) applying economic threats, (5) applying physical threats, (6) blocking media access, and (7) using testimonies and the Internet as an alternative source.

The findings illustrate the relevance and appropriateness of “the multistep model for altering place image” to analyze image repair efforts of countries. Furthermore, the findings in this study broaden and deepen the understanding of the use of the source strategies mentioned in the model. According to our findings, it seems that as a result of technological developments, source strategies appear in different forms. For example, the form of reactions to articles changed from letters to the editor to the operation of a “troll army” that sends posts and reactions to media outlet sites and social networks. We are also seeing an innovative use of visitor testimonies (as an alternative source to the media) that attest to a sense of safety at the destination. Lastly, there has been a change in the way countries act in order to alter “distorted” coverage, as we have seen in the case of Kenya: after CNN termed Kenya as a “hotbed of terror,” a campaign using the hashtag #SomeoneTellCNN ran in the new media and forced the network to apologize for their distorted coverage.86

The goal of the developing countries' governments in using these strategies was to effect positive media coverage. These strategies attempt to pressure the sources of messages in the hope that threatened and realized arrests, blockages, and restrictions would greatly lessen negative reporting or erase harmful negative images that could damage the country's image internationally.

It seems that the challenges for the international media are still numerous. Governments of developing countries do not yet allow full access to the information they hold and still seek to control the information. It is very problematic for the international media that the governments of developing countries implement strategies based on their internal, national media communications that suffer from a lack of freedom and access.

The developing world includes dozens of countries with a multitude of different characteristics. However, our analysis reveals that there are some dimensions wherein developing countries are more alike than different: on one hand they suffer from similar negative images, generalizations, and stereotypes. On the other hand, despite these differences among developing countries, their governments use similar kinds of strategies to affect their media coverage. Future research should focus on the effective strategies that can be used by the international media in order to combat the strategies used by developing countries' leaders regarding their ability to report freely.



Bunce, Franks, and Paterson.


Avraham and Ketter, Media Strategies; Avraham and Ketter, Marketing Tourism.


Bunce; Bunce, Franks, and Paterson.


Ayalon, Popovich, and Yarchi.


Avraham and Ketter, Media Strategies.




See lists: Coombs and Holladay; Benoit; Coombs.


Avraham and Ketter, Media Strategies.


Kotler, Haider, and Rein, 169.


Avraham and Ketter, Marketing Tourism.


Manheim and Albritton.


Ayalon, Popovich, and Yarchi.






Fair; Hachten; Johnston; Ayalon, Popovich, and Yarchi.


Kim and Barnett.








Bunce, Franks, and Paterson.






Avraham and Ketter, Marketing Tourism.


Nothias, 75.


See list: Avraham and Ketter, Marketing Tourism.




van Dijk.


International Monetary Fund.


Avraham and Ketter, Marketing Tourism.




Avraham and Ketter, Marketing Tourism.


Ha'aretz/NYT, June 6, 2016.


BBC, August 19, 2015.


Tourism Authority of Thailand.


Avraham, “Marketing and Managing.”


eTN, 9 June 2011.


Ibid., April 7, 2011.


Ibid., September 13, 2012.


Ibid., November 16, 2008; Avraham and Ketter, Marketing Tourism.


Hachten, 88–89.


Ha'aretz, November 29, 2009.


eTN, September 18, 2013.


Ibid., February 8, 2013.


Ynet, June 7, 2015.


Ha'aretz, December 29, 2014.




Ha'aretz, December 29, 2014.


Avraham and Ketter, Media Strategies.




Waisbord, 91.






Ynet/AP, April 24, 2016.


Ha'aretz, June 6, 2016.




Ynet, January 14, 2016.


NYT, January 30, 2011.


Ha'aretz, February 17 and 27, 2011.


eTN, September 3, 2013.


Ha'aretz, September 4, 2013.


The Economist, June 6, 2016.


AP, June 18, 2016.


The Economist, June 6, 2016.


McNally; The Economist, June 6, 2016.


Ha'aretz, August 13, 2014.


NYT, September 9, 2006.


Ibid., March 17, 2008; March 25, 2008.


Ibid., March 8, 2011.


Ibid., September 12, 2014.


Ha'aretz, September 25, 2015.


Avraham and Ketter, Marketing Tourism.


Ketter and Avraham, “Online Tourism Marketing.”


Time Magazine, July 17, 2014.


Ha'aretz, November 29, 2009.


eTN, December 14, 2010.


Ibid., December 11, 2011.


Ibid., November 11, 2011.


Ibid., September 1, 2013.




Avraham, “Destination Image Repair.”


eTN, February 6 and 11, 2013.


Kenya Tourism Board.


eTN, November 1, 2009; Ketter and Avraham, “The Social Revolution.”


eTN, September 3 and 16, 2008.


BBC, July 23, 2015.


Associated Press. Various dates. http://www.ap.org/.
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