Language and Literacy of Travel Brochures

Modified: 18th May 2020
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 The amount and variety of travel brochures made available to tourists is vast. There are language and literacy implications for the targeted audience based on common features amongst different brochures. For example, depending on the advertising location, there are diverse cultural impacts that affect language. Also, because most travel brochures are persuasive, we explored how language is influenced by how companies and/or organizations want to attract tourists. We also researched the use of semantics, specifically descriptive language, within brochures to see if there are any commonalities in how and why it is used. In regards to pragmatics, we looked at the use of captions and pictures, the inclusion of quotes and testimonials, as well as other persuasive elements. This led to researching other uses of linguistic strategies, such as ego-targeting and euphoria, which travel brochures employ to appeal to its readers. Target audience was also another feature that impacted the language of travel brochures, which also influenced the tone of these advertisements. We looked at whether there were differences or commonalities in terms of syntax across our different brochure resources. Lastly, because some travel brochures are not written by standard English learners and/or speakers, we explored its impact on phonetics through the use of foreign words or cognates.

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Travel brochures use descriptive and positive adjectives as a way to entice and persuade the reader to visit their attraction or location.  The language used in travel brochures is referred to as tourism English and differs than conversational English.  Olli-Pekka Maasalmi (2013) states that tourism English is defined as “a special register of English that is different than general English and that serves some specific purposes” (as cited in Lam, P. Y. W., 2007).

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Based on a review of American and British tourism material, the language of tourism in English includes more adjectives than general English.  These adjectives are pleasant and descriptive and convey positive emotions.  Maasalmi (2013) asserts “the colorful, vivid and fascinating introductions and descriptions tend to impress and attract more potential tourists to visit” (as cited in Kang, N. & Q. Yu, 2011).  Using many adjectives yields enthusiastic emotions and specifically “general superlative adjectives which convey strong positive emotions” (Maasalmi, p. 11).  Superlative adjectives are descriptive but also provide a comparison.  Largest, highest, are tallest are just several examples of superlative adjectives that can be used in a comparison context.

●       Examples of superlative adjectives found in an Alaska brochure: 

○       “There are few places on earth that capture the imagination like Alaska.”

○       “Day Tours & Attractions operates more adventure tours in Alaska than any other company.”

●       Example of superlative adjectives found in a China brochure:

○       “Shanghai [is] one of the world’s largest seaports and China major industrial and commercial center.”

The use of adjectives and superlatives helps to “influence the emotions, attitudes and beliefs of the reader” (Nguoi, 2016, p. 33).  While travel brochures are informational in nature, they are ultimately persuasive.  There are different linguistics that are used when including adjectives in travel brochures, two of which are euphoria and ego-targeting.

Euphoria includes positive adjectives that are appealing to readers like awe-inspiring, dazzling, or unrivalled.  This is also referred to as a “hyperbolic element”, where the language is exaggerated by many adjectives (Perrson, 2012, p. 18).

●       Example of euphoria found in an India Brochure:

○       “Not been to Ladakh? Gear on then, the best is yet to come.  A jaw-dropping jeep safari takes you across jagged mountains, high-altitude passes, rich and varied vegetation and historic monasteries.”

●       Examples of euphoria found in a China Brochure:

○       “Guilin is like a glittering pearl on a green carpet.”

○       “Guilin is a world-famous scenic city, famous for its unrivalled karst landscape, exquisite mountains, limpid rivers, wired caves and beautiful rocks.”

●       Example of euphoria found in an Alaska brochure:

○       “Within rugged mountains, dense rainforests, and breathtaking glaciers lies a rich history, abundant wildlife, and an undeniably Alaskan spirit of adventure.”

In addition to Euphoria, the linguistic technique of ego-targeting is heavily used in travel brochures.  Nguoi (2016) shares that this technique helps emphasize an attraction or a location with the use of adjectives that appeal to a very special reader (e.g., “just for the special ‘you’”). 

●       Examples of ego-targeting found in an India Brochure:

○       “Let the ‘Land of High Passes’, add zing to your life.”

○       “So, come and discover a new you. It’s never too late to heal yourself.”

Target audience

Today travel brochures are not just traditional paper brochures distributed by travel agents or tourist bureaus. In this Information Age, travel brochures are also available as e-brochures and downloaded from websites.  Whether on the internet or on paper there are several significant elements of language that are apparent when studying the linguistics in a travel brochure. Travel brochures are a form of advertising and cross cultural communication. The tourism language is to get the message across to tourists that this place is exciting with lots of new things to see and do.


Pragmatics in travel brochures is seen as an understanding between people of different places to obey certain rules of interaction. In everyday language, the meanings of words and phrases are constantly implied and not explicitly stated. Pragmatic writing elements in travel brochures use of captions, pictures, quotes, testimonials, and organization of information. In the language of tourism, words can have a certain meaning. The brochures give a detailed portrayal of the potential tourism destination that attempt to persuade, attract, and encourage potential tourists. The language is shown to have a persuasive manner in order to attract visitors.

■       An example of pragmatic captions in European Canal Barge Cruise 2019: “Fine Dining On Board, Free Wheeling On Shore” which means you have the comfort and stability of stay meal onboard the boat but freedom and independence in an exciting new place or “Follow Your Heart from Morning till Night” which means you have the freedom and choices to do what you want on your vacation.

■       Example of persuasive testimonial from European Canal Barge Cruise 2019: “I really enjoyed the entire itinerary – great sightseeing, great pace – the perfect combination of relaxing and doing things. And the food and the wine were out of this world. Never in my life have I eaten so well.” -Carrie Melrose, MA”


Imperatives and directives are commonly found in travel brochures. Imperative sentences are used to issue a command or instruction, make a request, or offer advice. These sentences are sometimes referred to as directives because they provide direction to whoever is being addressed. The language urges the reader to go to this place.

■       Some examples include: “Step aboard your floating country inn, enjoy freshly prepared gourmet meals, go ashore and discover rich cultural experiences.” or “Explore the kaleidoscope of colours that is America’s stunning canyonlands.”  or “Live your dreams”. 

A negative imperative together with an exclamation mark convey an even stronger urge.

■       “Don’t wait, this is an experience of a lifetime!” or “Not been to Ladakh?” This passionate language elicits from the reader an urge to take part in the exciting tourist experience.

The tenses that occur are simple present tense, simple past tense, simple future tense, and present perfect tense. Simple present tense can be identified as the dominant tense and the text, because it expresses action or state in the present time and is used to say something happens all the time or repeatedly, or that something is generally true. Simple present tense can be seen from several verbs, which use the simple form of a verb (am/is/are).

●       Phonetics – translation of travel brochures in English, use of foreign words or cognates

○       Translation quality has an impact on the targeted audience. There are some linguistic challenges that arise in some travel brochures. For example, there may be syntactic issues, semantic errors, lack of editing, punctuation mistakes, and at times a lack of cultural understanding on the translator’s part (Understanding translation quality with a case of tourism promotional texts, pg. 7-8, 2018)

○       The audience of the brochures is categorised into two groups: ‘tamu-tamu dari luar’ (visitors from overseas), that is those who have already come to Gorontalo, and potential visitors that they contact through tourism promotional events held overseas: ‘acara-acara diluar’ (events overseas).

○       Based on this article, translation quality is influenced by whether the translator is given information about its targeted audience.

Tone of Travel Brochures  

The language of travel brochures can incorporate many different tones at the same time. Besides the informational and persuasive writing, there are also examples of narrative writing in travel brochures. These narratives create a tone of what could happen at this destination. The tone is relaxed and peaceful but also excitement and adventure at the same time with many new things to do and see.

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■       “As the afternoon lengthens, you consider a peaceful cycling excursion through the countryside, a singular adventure offering rare glimpses into local life. Your captain has a selection of bicycles on hand, as well as a local’s knowledge of the best places to see on two wheels. Alternately, you find a spot on deck and enjoy an afternoon drink as the scenery lazily rolls by.”  European Barge and Canal Cruising Brochure 2019

Also the concept of “magic” is a common technique adopted when promoting tourism. This will allow destinations to emphasize a gap between people’s ordinary lives versus the temporary magical illusion which a vacation destination provides. Common phrases are used such as: “paradise awaits you”, “far away from home”,  or “experience another world”.


The economic importance of tourism is significant to many areas of the world. Travel brochures are a key advertising element to draw the tourists and their  money. The genre of travel brochures are part informational writing and part persuasive writing and some narrative as well. These brochures often attempt to include a wealth of information within limited space, using both language and images for this purpose. It is its own special form of advertising. People are attracted by the beautiful pictures, but are persuaded and informed by the language.

Reflections (your experience with this assignment (your learning, questions) and a few specific ideas of using an assignment similar to this one with your students to motivate and engage them in learning more about language and literacy)

●       Linda Edley

 I am extremely happy with the topic chosen. There is a wealth of easily accessible information. Travel brochures are interesting to read, concise, and provides many linguistic and language features such as use of adjectives, syntax, phonetics, and pragmatics. Even though I have read many travel brochures before, I felt that I was seeing new elements of travel brochures by researching and paying attention to the language of tourism. Also working with Claire and Margaret was very helpful because I was able to see their ideas on the same subject.

Since travel brochures are authentic materials in the sense that real language use is involved, the effective use of travel brochures as teaching materials can be motivating for students. Students need to be exposed to the way real language is used so that they can see the immediate relevance of acquiring it.  One great use for travel brochures is teaching vocabulary. There are excellent vocabulary words used in context. The best way to demonstrate this to students is to show them just how magical words can be, through your lessons and through their classroom activities like analysing travel brochures. Also travel brochures can be well adapted for classroom use, owing to the extensive repertoire of adjectives and effective use of persuasive language genre. The use of adjectives is one of the prominent language features of persuasive texts. The use of adjectives and superlatives in the tourist brochures are aimed to influence the emotions, attitudes, and beliefs of the readers. The adjectives main function is to make the brochures as alluring and appealing as possible. A sample lesson could have students analyse and compare the use of different adjectives found in travel brochures. Another lesson is making a travel brochure describing a fictional setting from a book. This makes a great substitute for a book report. Making use of this authentic material will help educators to create a positive learning environment. Also this type of text is easily accessible and easily adapted for classroom use.

●       Margaret Thi

○       Experience

○       Using travel brochures with your students

●       Claire Goldberg

 I really enjoyed learning more about the language of tourism while researching this assignment.  I always knew tourism brochures included positive language and were persuasive in nature.  I knew that their main purpose was to hook the reader into wanting to visit a specific location or attraction, even if it meant the brochure includes exaggerated language or edited photos.  It was fascinating learning more about the different linguistic techniques that travel brochures use, including euphoria and ego-targeting.  Within those linguistic techniques, the use of adjectives is a main focus in the language of tourism.

 While reading the literature on this subject and reviewing different travel brochure examples, I immediately thought that travel brochures could be used as part of an adjectives lesson with students.  First of all, travel brochures are catchy, aesthetically-pleasing, and rich with language.  I would want my students to immerse themselves in different brochures and jot down what they notice.  Once students realize that there is an abundance of adjectives used, the learning can go in many different directions.  Students can make lists of the adjectives they know the meanings of and the adjectives they do not.  Based on the sentence or phrase, using context clues can help students in determining the meaning.  Students can also use visualizing to help them determine the meaning of new vocabulary.  For example, a phrase from an Alaska brochure was “rugged mountains, dense rainforests”.   For students not knowing the meaning of rugged or dense, they can visualize both mountains and rainforests to help determine the meaning.  Exploring travel brochures would help broaden student knowledge of parts of speech, in particular adjectives and the nouns they describe, as well as gain exposure to rich vocabulary.  In doing so, conversations can also be focused around the persuasive language of the brochures and how they can be used as a resource for persuasive writing in class.


  • Ip, J. Y. (2008). Analyzing tourism discourse: A case study of a Hong Kong travel brochure. LCOM Papers 1,1-19.
  • Maasalmi, O. (2013). On the use of adjectives in travel brochures(Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Eastern Finland.
  • Napu, N. (2018). Does commissioning process matter? Understanding translation quality with a case of tourism promotional texts. Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies,14(4), 352-363.
  • Nguoi, C. C. (2016). Travel Brochures for Teaching Product/Service Description. The English Teacher,45(1), 31-44.
  • Persson, L. (2012). The Language of Tourism: How the tourism industry promotes magic(Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Högskolan i Halmstad.


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