6 Fictional Tourism Ambassadors

Japan National Tourism Organization
Japan National Tourism Organization / Japan National Tourism Organization

Sometimes the charisma of an actual person just isn’t enough to persuade people to visit your tourist-friendly territory. Have a look at six ambassadors who would have trouble gaining citizenship due to not actually existing.

1. Godzilla


After decades of rampaging and billions in property damage, the mammoth lizard has apparently softened in old age: He was recently named the official ambassador for Shinjuku, Japan. To mark the occasion, the district has produced a giant Godzilla head that resides on top of the Toho building. Visitors in the nearby Gracery Hotel will be able to look on—presumably in abject terror—at his enormous cranium.

2. Dora the Explorer     


Dora’s 2010 stint as an advocate for family travel to New York City was so successful that she’s at it again. Nickelodeon announced Dora would be campaigning in the city’s first bi-lingual effort to draw more visitors to popular attractions like the Bronx Zoo.  

3. The Muppets


Jim Henson’s felt offspring also stumped for NYC, spending all of 2012 highlighting the shopping experiences of Ms. Piggy and the food preferences of Swedish Chef. Kermit the Frog even issued a statement in a press release: “I've loved New York ever since I arrived in its harbor and saw that the Statue of Liberty is green. “

4. Heidi

Wonderferret, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In 1998, the young star of Johanna Spyri’s series of 19th-century novels was tapped to be Switzerland’s spokesperson for hiking and skiing in an area officials dubbed “Heidiland.” But neighboring Maienfeld, where the character was originally from, was unhappy with the appropriation and tried to mount their own campaign featuring a petting zoo full of goats. Currently, they offer a hiking trail.  

5. Hello Kitty


The ubiquitous white cat—which has built a merchandising empire from humble beginnings as a coin purse in 1974—was elected to be Japan’s representative for China and Hong Kong in 2008. Apparently, the feline may have underwhelmed in the role: In 2013, Japan selected another fictional kitty, Doraemon, to represent Japan in their bid for the 2020 Olympic Games.   

6. Mr. Potato Head

Matt Cloutier, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In a scene worthy of Twin Peaks, 47 different Mr. and Mrs. Potato Heads were sworn in by Rhode Island governor Lincoln Almond on the steps of the State Capitol in 2000. Toymaker Hasbro, a Rhode Island resident, arranged for the plaything to become a “spokespud” for a family travel campaign.

According to ABC News, one of the starchy statues (not the one seen above) drew complaints from residents because its “suntanned” layer of dark brown paint was perceived as racist. Designer Kathy Szarko did not agree with the sentiment. “He’s a potato,” she told ABC. “That’s why he’s brown.”