How to improve rural tourism development in Chinese suburban villages? Empirical findings from a quantitative analysis of eight rural tourism destinations in Beijing
Rural tourism has been an important engine for rural development and regeneration. In China, rural tourism is widely encouraged in the less developed regions to mitigate poverty and promote harmonious urban–rural development. Existing research literature finds that the perceptions of stakeholders towards rural tourism development are critical of the final economic and social outcomes. Nonetheless, most research focuses on the perception of a single stakeholder group. In this paper, we fill the research gap by simultaneously examining the perceptions of both the local tourism service providers and the tourists. We select eight Beijing suburban villages that typify the rural tourism development trends in Beijing, and collect sample data from 433 local service providers and 815 tourists. The questionnaire covers a wide range of perceptual variables, with particular focus on how the two stakeholder groups respond differently to the possible approaches to improve rural tourism development. The Partial Least Squares (PLS) regression method is employed to identify the key impact factors for each group. Our test shows that diversifying the tourism products and improving marketing coverage are two approaches that are favoured by both the local service providers and the tourists. However, different concerns are revealed for other approaches, such as improving service quality, increasing accommodation capacity and providing collective tourism activities. We also discover that rural tourism development may cause dramatic social and demographic changes to suburban villages, the impacts of which should be taken into account for development scheme appraisal. This research helps to clarify the policy contexts for rural tourism development and points out the possible priority areas for future research.