As someone who loves Spain, and feels the pain of the current, economical problems I want to thank Michelle Obama.
Mrs. Obama has raised awareness on two fronts. She has helped promote Spain in the US, and has helped promote the US in Spain. Don’t be fooled into thinking that her recent trip was a simple vacation.
Tourism is huge business, much bigger than most people realize, because we don’t think of it in terms of sharp suits or smoking chimneys, we relate it to leisure, and rarely stop to think of the work, the jobs and the planning which goes into providing us with a relaxing vacation. Places like the south of Spain, Las Vegas or Bankok are totally dependent on this industry, and it is the first thing we cut down on when we have financial problems. We barbeque in our backyards and visit the local zoo instead of travelling. Spain, Las Vegas, Bankok and everywhere else which relies on tourism needs a boost right now.
Maybe because the places I’ve called home have always been in or close to tourism spots, both here and in the UK, I can appreciate the problems of this industry more than some, even though I don’t work in it.
Michelle Obama has helped to repair the damage done to Spanish/US relations by the previous US administration, which treated Spain like a leper colony after she withdrew her troops from Iraq, even though Spanish soliders continue to die in Afghanistan, and Spanish support for that intervention has never waivered. She has helped others to see that there is more to Spain than beaches and sunshine, but perhaps more important, she has helped Spaniards to understand that there is also more to the US than racial profiling and drug trafficking, which is largely what we see here on tv. Can you imagine a Spaniard wanting to go to Arizona at the moment? Can you imagine an educated, cultured Spanish tourist being harrassed in Arizona because they fit the racial profile?? Happily, there are other states to visit.
Mrs Obama showed us that Americans are open and friendly, educated and articulate, and, of course elegant. She must be doing wonders for the US fasion industry too. Don’t you think that she really would rather have put on a pair of comfy, old jeans and chilled out in private on vacation, rather than being hounded by the world’s press everywhere she went, having to look the ever- immaculate representative of the US?
The US needs tourist dollars, foreign exchange right now, so I hope that lots of Spaniards will be inspired to visit the country. Don’t underestimate the damage to the country’s reputation previous administrations have brought about, not to mention the fear many people have because what they see on tv and movie screens is mainly violence and crime. I’ve lost count of the hours I’ve spent trying to explain to people who have never had the pleasure of discovering the coral reefs of Florida, the vineyards of West New York or the historical and laid-back pleasures of the Outer Banks that, yes, I walked the streets of New York at night, without fear, tasted wonderful, sophisticated foods (i.e. I didn’t live off McDonalds), and have wonderful, intelligent and caring American friends. Michelle Obama (and of course all the family) go a long way to helping improve the American image and to encouraging people to want to spend time in the US.