The Maldives as a Culturally Hybrid Tourism Destination: A Multimodal Discourse Analysis on the Branding of the Maldives for Western Backpackers and Luxury Tourists

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The aim of this thesis, is to present how the Maldives is branded for Western tourist audiences, in this case backpackers and luxury tourists. Attracting two opposite audiences makes the Maldives a unique case, since branding theory stipulates that the target audience should be specific. By means of a multimodal discourse analysis, different actors in the tourism industry are selected that all brand the country in their own manner. National tourism corporations, travel guides and travel agencies are chosen, whereby connotations attached to the discursive constructions regarding five recurring categories, are analysed. These are: the beach and ocean, accommodations, leisure activities, locality, and transportation in the Maldives. The analysis is conducted from a postcolonial perspective, using primarily theories that present postcolonial structures and developments in culture that can be linked to tourism. When analysing the primary sources, many differences stand out. It is noticeable that both tourist audiences often share similar interests, however they manifest differently in the communication. Besides differences, the similarities are also brought to light. The most remarkable similarity, is the interest both audiences have in the ‘other’. The Maldives is a complicated destination that functions as a crossroad for not only luxury tourists and backpackers, but also for the West meeting the East. Through this mixing, new cultural identities are being formed, creating subgroups that each have their own travel motivations. This process creates difficulties in the branding of the country, where actors seem to be stuck with the choice of either presenting the hybridisation process, or keep discriminating these cultures from each other. It is concluded that the discourses for both audiences are interwoven and therefore not opposites. The Maldives present that hybrid cultures are being fused, which creates overlap and displacement of domains of differences. Therefore, it could be said that the Maldives in its entirety could be perceived as a third space.
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