Business Partnership Relationships in the Chinese Inbound Tourism Market to Australia
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The Chinese inbound tourism market to Australia has been acknowledged as an emerging market and a major export earner. However, Australian inbound tour operators experience difficulties in establishing and developing viable partner relationships with Chinese travel agents. Recognising the size, importance and complexity of this market, the major purpose of this research is to explore and investigate the crucial process of developing Sino-Australian partnership relationships in the tourism industry, and to educate Australian tourism operatives about this process to facilitate the establishment of business relationships with Chinese travel agents. Hence, the principal research question posed in this thesis is: How might Australian tourism product suppliers and marketers establish and maintain partnership relationships with Chinese travel agents to help Australia become a preferred tourist destination for Chinese tourists? This study is exploratory in nature and draws on applied marketing, management and cross-cultural theories on networking to explore the process of developing partnership relationships in the Chinese inbound tourism market to Australia. The literature on networking, and the development of networking relationships, has been theorised drawing principally on the marketing and management literature. The impact of cross-cultural differences and the effect of guanxi (connection), a key feature of Chinese business networking, on partnership relations between Chinese travel agents and Australian inbound tour operators, is also reviewed and discussed. One of the main contributions of this research is its multidisciplinary nature, drawing on relationship marketing and network theories and applying them to tourism research. Little research has been undertaken into tourism-based partnership relations in the cross-national context. Given the limited research conducted on this topic and its cross-cultural nature, a qualitative research method was adopted for this study. Specifically, this study utilised in-depth interviewing techniques to explore the relationships between Australian inbound tour operators and Chinese travel agents. This study identifies that the process of developing partnership relationships between Chinese travel agents and Australian inbound tour operators is, as expected, highly culturally embedded but in unexpected ways. Although all the Australian inbound tour operators in the study are of Chinese descent, they have adapted to Australian culture and business ethics, giving rise to communication problems that affect partnership relationships. A new stage model of the development of partnership relationships between Australian inbound tour operators and Chinese travel agents is therefore developed by incorporating cross-cultural factors into Western theories on networking and relationship marketing. In particular, the thesis identifies important factors in each stage of the process of developing business relationships. For example, resilient trust and mutual commitment, the pricing issue, word-of-mouth, and quality of services are all considered crucial in attaining long-term stable partnership relationships. Disproving popular myths about guanxi in some of the previous literature, the findings from this research demonstrate that, in China's economic transition period, guanxi plays a significant, but not decisive role in the process of developing partnership relationships between Chinese travel agents and Australian inbound tour operators. However, guanxi relationships can provide added value to the partnership relationships of Australian operators.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Tourism and Hotel Management
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