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Right destination, wrong photo: How tourism is plagued by misleading advertising

July 30th, 2019 | | industry

Imagine travelling to what you thought was your dream destination, only to find it is nothing like the picture.

A photo of two kangaroos on an impressive beach was recently used to advertise tours of Kangaroo Island in South Australia, but there was one problem — the photographer had never been there. 

Key points:

  • Tourism promoters are increasingly being caught out using the wrong photo to advertise a destination
  • Gold Coast pictures were used to sell Melbourne by publisher Fodor, which has since corrected the error
  • Customers have been advised to be wary of stock images when travelling to an unfamiliar destination

Nathan Gonclaves said he captured the photo in 2016 when he spent a few hours at Lucky Bay in Western Australia, waiting for kangaroos to appear.

He uploaded the image to a stock photography website and it had since been bought more than 1,000 times.

He said the recent use of the image to promote another destination was upsetting because he believed Lucky Bay in Esperance was “one of the most beautiful places on earth”.

“Places like Esperance pride themselves on their beauty, so when something is portrayed as somewhere else, it’s not very good,” he said.

But the Shire of Esperance said there were a few occasions each year when they found Esperance being used to promote a not-so-local place.

Social media posts showing the same footage from Esperance used to market Hawaii.

PHOTO: Facebook users pointed out that footage labelled ‘Hawaii’ was actually of a beach in Esperance, WA. (Supplied: Instagram/Facebook)


In another example, an Instagram video of Esperance’s Wharton Beach suddenly became Hawaii when it was uploaded onto a travel inspiration Facebook page with nearly half a million followers.

Shire chief executive Matthew Scott said occasionally they would show the mistaken identity cases on social media “to simply have a bit of a laugh with our residents”.

“It’s great that people are interested in our particular images in Esperance and we’d certainly like people be directed towards Esperance,” he said.

“But we don’t have a lot of control in how other places necessarily portray themselves.
“I suppose I’m looking at it like is plagiarism one of the highest forms of a compliment?”

Esperance is not the only location which might appear so alluring, it is used to lure tourists somewhere different. 

International travel publisher Fodor was last week caught advertising its yet-to-be-released Melbourne guide with a not so Melbourne scene.

Fodor's travel guide to Melbourne initially used a cover image of the Gold Coast.

PHOTO: It didn’t take Reddit users long to notice a Melbourne guidebook had an image of the Gold Coast on its cover. (Supplied: Fodor)

Reddit users were quick to identify the front cover as the Gold Coast skyline, but one user suggested “climate change [had] really done a number on Melbourne”.

Since the Reddit commentary, the company had corrected the book’s image on its Amazon page.

But at the time of publication, another website Booktopia still featured the “North North North North North North North Melbourne” image. 

Not as easy to be ‘loose with the truth’

University of Technology Sydney tourism lecturer David Beirman said despite these recent cases, false advertising in the industry had become less widespread. 

“In the 1990s, you were often relying on printed material or brochures,” he said.

“It’s a bit harder to get away with it these days, mainly because tour operators know that their customers can very easily check out the veracity of a photo.

“So it really doesn’t pay to lie about these things. When you do that, you actually damage your reputation.”

Dr Beirman said customers should be buyer aware, particularly if travelling to an unfamiliar destination.

“I accept the fact that some hotels are not going to look quite as gorgeous in real life as they do in the brochures,” he said.

“But when you have extreme differences, it raises some very serious questions about a particular business.”

Man in a university office wearing a black shirt smiling from ear to ear.

PHOTO: David Beirman is a tourism lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney. (ABC RN: Sophie Kesteven

Stock photography ‘basically selling your soul to the devil’

Since Mr Gonclaves was alerted to the Kangaroo Island ad this week, he began removing some of his work from stock photography websites.

But he acknowledged the Lucky Bay image could easily find another home because he did not tag the image’s location when he was new to the website back in 2016.

“For me it’s back against the wall because unfortunately websites like [this] as soon as you upload those things, your rights are basically taken away,” he said. 

“When you download an image, I wouldn’t assume people would say it’s somewhere else without finding out where it is.”

The Murray Princess Cruise company featured in the ad said it was not their ad and there were a number of travel agents which could be responsible, but the ABC was unable to find the company. 

ED: Guilty as charged, your honour! The Byte wishes to express its own shortcomings by stating, yes, we too use stock photos.

Source: ABC

Sourced by Mike Barrow





One Response

  1. Gary Morgan says:

    Byron Bay Surfing Lessons have the same problem with False Advertising.

    We have 8 Surf Schools that advertise Byron Bay Surf Lessons but only 4 are Licenced with Byron Shire Council to provide Group Surfing Lessons in the waves of Byron Bay. Style Surfing School, Black Dog Surfing, Let’s Go Surfing & Byron Bay Surf Camp hold a Byron Bay Licence.

    This has been happening for too many years with tourists getting sold a Byron Bay Surfing Lesson only to be taken to Ballina Shire some 30 km or 30 minutes drive away from the famous surf breaks around Cape Byron.

    Once the lesson has been sold, and the customers arrives for their lesson, these operators tell the customers that the surf is “No Good” or “Too Crowded” in Byron Bay today so we are going elsewhere.

    I have been surfing Byron Bay and Ballina Shire beaches on the North Coast since the 1970s and have been operating our family run Style Surfing School in Byron Bay since 1999 and do know the surfing conditions around the North Coast. I also write a daily Surf Report for Byron Bay and have been reporting on the surf since the 1980s.

    The customer gets shafted as they are led to believe they are having a lesson in Byron Bay, only to be driven away to another Shire where these operators do hold a licence.

    Ballina Shire has got some of the most amazing Surf Breaks in Australia, but is best for the experienced surfer.

    Unless the ocean is virtually flat, Ballina beaches do not have the classic waves like Clarkes Beach inside Cape Byron that offers beginners an amazing experience to learn to surf in a safe environment.

    Basically it is selling something that they cannot provide and that is Bullsh#t.

    Gary Gaz Morgan. Owner of Style Surfing School Byron Bay. wwwstylesurfingbyronbay.com