Places around the world are investing millions of dollars to develop tourist attractions in their communities and to establish an identity that will help them stand out in a crowded market. Then there are others like the small Spanish city of Borja (pop. 5,000) that have been able to take a “shortcut” to instant notoriety. A few months ago Borja was the focus of worldwide humor and disbelief when an 80-year-old pensioner botched the restoration of the beloved fresco of Christ in the town’s church.
Now that the jokes have subsided (well not totally), the image of the “restored” fresco now adorns all kinds of souvenirs being sold in the town and on the internet, and tourists are happily handing over one Euro to enter the church and marvel at the famous fresco. All of this leads me to wonder - what really makes a tourist attraction magnetic? Prior to the restoration work few tourists came to Borja. It seems that publicity and fame are the only factors that have changed. The instant fame and publicity that this accidental tourist attraction has received will, for a short time at least, draw visitors who want to see first-hand the worst art restoration of all time.
The big challenge for Borja is to harness their 15 minutes of fame in a way that can provide benefits for the town. I understand that the owners of other historic artworks around the town are carefully protecting them while the lady looks for her next fixer-up project.