Selling Air

John Beckerson and John K. Walton, “Selling Air: Marking the Intangible at British Resorts,” in Histories of Tourism: Representation, Identity, and Conflict ed. John K. Walton, 55-68 (Channel View Publications, 2005).

In this chapter, Beckerson and Walton analyze promotional material and medical/scientific opinion on air as a draw to different health resorts. They describe its link to the philosophy of climatic determinism, highlighting the different kinds of air publicists from different countries marketed as being salubrious. They seem to constrain their analysis to sea air and to England, which renders the chapter a bit less useful for me. The work is mostly descriptive.

“The selling of air… was not the same as the marketing of a health-giving climate, which dealt in the statistics of sunlight, rainfall, humidity and prevailing winds: this was a qualitative issue, dealing with the perceived characteristics of the air of particular places and its alleged capacity to invigorate, rejuvenate, or sustain those who breathed copious doses of it.” (55)

Asserts that most middle-class families could afford health leisure trips by “the later 19th century,” and that businesses began to cater to them. (56)

“…the qualitative assertions favored by the publicists were impossible to disprove.” (57)

Popular attributes for the air: “ozone,” “bracing,” (<–dry) “tonic,” (<–“lifting the spirits and stimulating the appetite”) “strong,” “brisk,” “invigorating,” “bromine/iodine”
Ozone was associated with ocean air and believed to be impregnated with seawater’s health benefits. A lot of seaside resorts used it as a central marketing point, as did some rural ones. Though ozone’s salubrity found some backlash in scientific circles, it maintained a presence in promotional material for health resorts well into the 20th century. (58-9)

“As with ozone, the label ‘bracing’ could be presented as part of a broader and quite sophisticated-looking medical analysis of the properties of air in different local microclimates…”
Qualitative assessment of air used to bolster medico-scientific analysis of the salubrity of a resort. Keywords — bracing, ozone –important!

“The Americans tended to stress relief from urban heat and humidity.” (61)

Bit on how local flora and fauna made up part of advertisements, which made sense in a cultural context in which discovering the natural world improved a holiday ā€” “It was a sign that the resort was a place where the city and its threats to health and vitality could be escaped.”
In this way, America and Britain are the same. Health holiday in a rural setting in order to escape the pathologies of the city.

Municipal efforts at advertising “…were a useful gauge of how towns chose to collectively present themselves and reveal which groups had the power to form and sell images of place.” (62-3)

“Bracing breezes were difficult to measure and compare competitively but were only one aspect of competitive resort propaganda about weather and climate. A veritable climatic war was aged over many decades with rainfall and sunlight statistics, which could be recorded and presented with some claim to objectivity.” (63-4)

Attempts to harness scientific/medical authority ā€”

  • Medical men were often courted as well as potential clientele (ex. The Isle of Man’s Official Board of Advertising, formed in 1893); marketers were hoping to get recommendations from physicians. (64)
  • “Assertions about the distinctive qualities of local air played their part in the propaganda, as Medical Officers lent their scientific aura to the vaguest of claims.” (64)
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