Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
TORONTO — Coming up with the perfect slogan to represent an entire country or city is a slippery slope. You want it to be catchy, memorable and exciting, without causing offence or being too controversial (remember this one: “Vilnius, the G-Spot of Europe”?).
Well, another tourism slogan is making headlines for being risqué and downright creepy. Albania’s newly announced ‘Be Taken by Albania’ is meant to be a direct nod to its reputation for criminal activity, something that was highlighted by Hollywood in the 2008 blockbuster ‘Taken’, starring perennial bad-guy catcher Liam Neeson.
In the movie, Neeson plays a father who karate-chops his way through Europe in search of his daughter after she’s been ‘taken’ by Albanian human traffickers.
The new tourism slogan clearly makes reference to the movie; on the tourism board’s website, there’s a direct shout-out to Neeson himself, as well as a campaign video that includes clips from the movie:
In popular culture, Albania has ben colored as a haven for thugs, criminals and gangsters. While we understand that perception might make for good movies, like Taken (2008), it’s wholly untrue! In reality, Albania is a beautiful and incredibly safe place to visit and live.”
‘Marko from Tropoja’, actor Arben Bajraktaraj who plays the lead villain in the movie, even makes a surprise appearance at the end of the video, delivering his lines in typical bad-guy fashion.
There’s no denying that the video is well produced, light-hearted and visually stunning, with images of Albania’s gorgeous coastlines and natural landmarks. But there’s also no denying that Albania remains to be “a source, transit, and destination country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor,” according to a U.S. State Department 2018 report. And although the country has made significant efforts to curb the situation, the report states that Albania still “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”
So, what do you think? Is it a brilliant play on pop culture, or an ill-advised and inappropriate marketing campaign?