The Search for Modernity: Mainland Chinese Corporate Travellers and Confucianism
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Three main facets provide a distinctive focus to this research. First, this thesis is about Chinese outbound tourism and how we can better understand tourists‘ behaviour. With outbound tourism figures forecast to reach 100 million tourists by the year 2020, China is emerging as a major player in the outbound tourism market. Recognised as a profitable market segment, China‘s outbound tourism has attracted much attention from both tourism practitioners and major destination management organisations worldwide. As businesses increasingly become globalised, corporate group travel is fast becoming a formidable segment within the China outbound tourism market. The economic implications of this market segment are significant. This research explores Mainland Chinese corporate travellers at leisure on the Gold Coast, Australia. Another aspect of this thesis is Chinese modernity and its relevance with relation to the tourists‘ behaviour. There has been much research on modernity in China since 1990s. However, the study of Chinese modernity in a tourism context is rare. Being a modern phenomenon, tourism is seen by many as a reflection of modern lifestyle. As the Chinese economy increasingly converges with global capitalism, commercialisation and consumerism are penetrating every aspect of Chinese social life. Modernity is largely understood in the narrow sense of material consumption and modern developments in the society. Participating in this new and modern way of living, Mainland Chinese have embraced aspects of materialistic consumerism that not only offer luxury and comfort, but more importantly increase their social face and status. This thesis explores Chinese modernity displayed by the newly rich in urban China in the tourism context. The last significant facet of the current inquiries is Confucianism. Despite the widespread belief that Confucianism influences the behaviour of the Chinese, little research exists to date in the field of tourism studies. Drawing on social theories from various disciplines such as social psychology, Chinese psychology, marketing and tourism, this research explores the touring experiences of Mainland Chinese in reference to Confucianism. The use of predominantly positivistic ontologies and epistemologies, and the adoption of Western tourism theories in the non-Western context, are critiqued in this research. Hence, grounded in theoretical frameworks of constructivism, this research uses ethnography to allow the complexities of social, cultural, economic and historical processes within the social context to surface. Based on participant observations of corporate group package tours, this research suggests that the Confucian notion of harmony and a Chinese form of modernity (the quest for Western modernity and development) underline the touring experiences of the Chinese tourists. The notion of harmony is intricately related with emerged themes such as respect for authority, relationship-building, or guanxi, conformity and the face concept. Heavily influenced by the values of Confucianism, the travellers studied here placed much emphasis on maintaining not only the correct and appropriate behaviour — which included paying due respect to one‘s superiors and the giving and saving of social face — but also practising forbearance by conforming to the interests of a wider group rather than pursuing individual desires. Relationship-building appears to have been another salient motivation underlying the behaviours of the tourists. Challenging the theory that modernity is a process of detraditionalisation, this research suggests that traditional values are still very much alive in contemporary Chinese societies. Tourism, which is believed to be a direct consequence of modernity, does not appear to reject traditional values in the Chinese corporate tourism context. Indeed, it harmoniously coexists with Chinese traditional cultural values of Confucianism, as the current study findings suggest. Chinese tourists consciously performed their Chinese identity when participating in tourist activities. Having adopted an interpretive approach, this research suggests that an alternate modernity exists in Chinese societies, a modernity that is infused with the foundational elements of Western modernity and the distinctive traits of Chinese traditions and cultural values. For the Mainland Chinese in particular, tourism is used to search for the much-desired Western modernity and development that are believed to exist elsewhere other than their homeland. This research serves as a departure point to review a Western-centric understanding of tourism as a form of escape from modern alienation.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department of Tourism, Leisure, Hotel and Sport Management
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