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Holidays in the Danger Zone

Entanglements of War and Tourism
Debbie Lisle
Holidays in the Danger Zone


From the Introduction: Entanglements of War and Tourism

In March 2009, Tourism Australia launched a multi-million-dollar adver­tising campaign titled "No Leave, No Life" that aimed to unlock nearly 130 million days of annual stockpiled leave—the equivalent of 350,000 years of holidays—to increase efficiency, productivity, and morale (Tour­ism Australia 2009a; 2009b). Tourism Australia provided companies with a range of training tools, resources, and advice on logistics that would encourage workers to take their annual leave within Australia. As the then minister of tourism explained, "by using their leave to take a holiday at home, Australians are helping their mates who depend on tourism for their livelihoods and achieving a better balance between their work and personal lives" (Australasian Leisure Management 2009; Australian As­sociated Press and Gallo 2011). "No Leave, No Life" warned companies of the risks involved when workers did not take their annual leave, includ­ing poor performance, decreased motivation, low morale, and reduced productivity, and offered guidance on how to positively transform the "no leave culture" in the workplace (Tourism Australia 2009c). This seem­ingly innocuous advertising campaign tells us much about the increasingly blurred lines between the public arena of work and the private pursuits of leisure—especially how employers and state authorities are intervening in and seeking to manage the nonwork time of citizens. Indeed, the "No Leave, No Life" campaign is an expression of the increasing governance of modern life—how our entire lives (including our pursuits of leisure and travel) are subject to various political interventions aimed at reorienting our dispositions, incentivizing our behaviors, and harnessing our aspira­tions in ways that ultimately make us more governable (Burchell, Gordon, and Miller 1991; Foucault 2010a; 2010b; 2011; Walters 2012). These interventions by a mixture of state, public, private, and commercial forces are sometimes enthusiastically welcomed as helpful strategies to enhance our well-being, happiness, and productivity and are sometimes fiercely resisted as oppressive mechanisms of order, control, and surveillance. What particularly interests me about the "No Leave, No Life" campaign is the manner in which it stages such an intervention through the well-established military practice of structured leave, also known as rest and relaxation (R&R). As military leaders have always known, a well-rested workforce/fighting force is also more productive, more efficient, and less likely to make mistakes. This militarized message was articulated most clearly in the branding and promotional imagery of the "No Leave, No Life" campaign: employees are like soldiers, and as such, they require periodical vacations from battle to recharge their batteries and return to the front line more rested, revitalized, and rejuvenated. Here the front line is the "work-life battle," where employees have to fight constantly against the pressures of a career that threatens to swallow up their whole lives. The message is simple: the only way to have a life worth living—and to win the work-life battle—is to spend any stockpiled annual leave taking regular vacations within Australia.

In direct mimicry of Joe Rosenthal's Pulitzer Prize-winning image of American soldiers raising the flag on Iwo Jima in 1945, the main "No Leave, No Life" advertisement (see Figure 1) replaces U.S. Marines with a white nuclear family enjoying a beach holiday (Hariman and Lucaites 2007, 93-136). Here, the detritus of Mount Suribachi, the unfurling of the American flag, and the stark black-and-white palate of Rosenthal's image are replaced by a warm beach with gentle waves, a colorful sun umbrella, and a lush summertime palate overlaid with a calming sunset. This juxtaposition is effective in its simplicity: the familiarity and instant recognition of the Iwo Jima icon makes audiences comfortable and there­fore willing to uncritically accept the attached significations of leisure, relaxation, and travel. It suggests that the feelings of togetherness, victory, and patriotism unleashed by Rosenthal's image can also be achieved by ordinary men and women if they win the work-life battle by taking their regular vacations in Australia.