Socially sustainable ethnic tourism : a Chinese context

Publication Type:
Thesis
Issue Date:
2015
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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. This thesis contains 3rd party copyright material. ----- In recent years ethnic tourism has become a catalyst for economic and socio-cultural development locally and nationally. The growth in ethnic tourism has brought with it a series of well-documented issues that have brought into question the ongoing sustainability of this type of tourism development. In particular, a number of socio-cultural issues have been raised. These issues not only affect the quality and sustainability of tourist destinations but also impact the quality of life for people in the host communities where the ethnic tourism enterprises are based. There is a growing body of research on ethnic tourism and sustainable tourism that suggests a strong relationship between the sustainability of ethnic tourism and the level of community involvement and participation in the tourism enterprise. Furthermore, existing research has suggested that culturally relevant paradigms of community participation may be a critical component of sustainable tourism for tourism destinations in developing economies. However, to date there has been no definitive conceptualisation of socially sustainable ethnic tourism. In order to better understand the dynamics that exist between these dimensions of ethnic tourism, this research explores ethnic tourism within the culturally specific context of China. The overall aim of the research was to examine the key components that contribute to the creation and/or delivery of socially sustainable ethnic tourism within regional China. Socially sustainable ethnic tourism was explored through an investigation of two case studies of ethnic Hakka tourism destinations: Nanyuan and Sujiawei villages in Heyuan, Guangdong Province, China. It was found that two distinct ethnic tourism development approaches were practised in these Hakka communities; a community-led approach was present in Nanyuan, and an external organisation-led approach (involving government and an external enterprise) was used in Sujiawei. The similarity of their socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, together with the differences in their approaches to hosting ethic tourism experiences, provide an opportunity for a comparative investigation of socially sustainable ethnic tourism and the role of community participation in its provision. In the Nanyuan case study, 11 in-depth interviews were conducted with five key informants; 103 village households were surveyed; and a range of other case study information was systematically collected, including official government documents, business papers, media releases and photos. In the Sujiawei case study, ten in-depth interviews were conducted with five key informants; 22 village households were surveyed; and a range of other case study information was systematically collected, including official government documents, business papers, media releases and photos taken by the researcher. The various sources of evidence were analysed taking into account the historical, social and political contexts. The findings provide an insight into the main components that contribute to provision of socially sustainable ethnic tourism in a culturally specific location. The role of the local government, community participation, social sustainability, and sustainable interest group relationships were central to the relative success of the ethnic tourism enterprise. Business ownership was related to the level of local government involvement and influence in ethnic tourism, and the types of local community participation in tourism. The interrelationships between the main interest groups further influenced the social sustainability of ethnic tourism, and a common understanding of interest group relationships was essential for ensuring social sustainability of the ethnic tourism enterprise. A critical finding of this research is the centrality of sustainable interest group relationships in the provision of socially sustainable ethnic tourism. The contribution of this thesis is to advance our understanding of concepts related to sustainable development, sustainable tourism and ethnic tourism, community participation in ethnic tourism, and socially sustainable ethnic tourism in a Chinese context. A socially sustainable ethnic tourism model is proposed.
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