Comparing Tourism in Germany, Italy and Spain

Tourism was used as a tool for fascist regimes to promote a collective identity, improve the standard of living and/or project a strong outward image of prosperity. While the common goal was self-promotion, my impression from the readings was that Germany, Italy and Spain each used tourism to achieve different ends. 

Strength Through Joy (KdF) was a German Nazi leisure organization that was established to bridge the class divide by making “middle class” activities available to the masses. Rather than bringing Europeans into Germany, KdF used opportunities for citizens to travel abroad as a way to reinforce German supremacy. According to Baranowski, visiting other countries with a seemingly lower standard of living worked in the regimes favour to contrast the “superiority of Germany’s way of life under Adolf Hitler.” 

Italy, on the other hand, looked internally when looking to establish a new national identity through tourism. The National Recreation Club (OND) was similar to KdF in that it operated as a leisure and recreational organization for adults in fascist Italy. De Grazia highlights how the OND transformed scenic Italian villages into “national commodities of a new mass leisure.” The regime thereby turned internal excusions to the mountains or countryside as a tool to strengthen a national collective identity, connecting peoples from different regions. While there was some degree of class and regional intermingling on German KdF excursions, Mussolini’s Italy used  domestic tourism as a tool for evoking unity to progress of the “new” Italy. 

Spain also used tourism as a tool to strengthen dictatorial rule, but Franco’s approach differed significantly from other fascist regimes. Instead of sending Spaniards into the world, the regime sought to build the tourism industry within Spain. According to Crumbaugh, tourism in the 1960s Spain created the impression that the task of development was a “collective and collaborative effort involving the active participation of the entire Spanish population.” By bringing the world to them, Spain not only showed Europeans their newfound strength, but further appealed to the average citizen by projecting an economic resurgence under Franco’s rule.

So which approach is best? Is showing your population how the rest of the world lives work to increase their appreciation in the fascist state apparatus? Will promoting internal travel lessen the “us vs. them” mentality between the social classes and geographic regions? Does building a tourism industry that attracts foreign visitors increase a nation’s legitimacy and contribute to positive diplomacy?  

One Reply to “Comparing Tourism in Germany, Italy and Spain”

  1. To try answering your questions, I think that all three approaches to tourism were guided by the goal that the respective leaders sought after. Germany which focused more on race found it more effective to parade outside of its country and showcase his superiority, which worked until the war was declared. Italy which put more emphasis on national identity chose to focus on domestic entertainment , but it failed to touch the masses internationally. Spain is in another category in my opinion. Franco wanted to promote tourism to validate his results with an up-and-coming economy. However, it is difficult to compare the boom of the tourism industry in the 1960s in Spain and the attempts of Germany and Italy in the 1930s. Too many time-related factors can affect this comparison (among them: World War II, a better access to information and education and a more liberal dictatorship than in the 1930s ). But if I were to decide which approach worked better, I will say that the tactic from Spain proved to be successful as the burst of tourism from the 1960s continued to flourish well after Franco passed away, although it was built on lots of commercial artificialities.

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