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Ethnic Tourism Studies in China

In the middle and late twentieth century, China’s policy shifted to economics over politics, opening China’s doors more, and allowing tourism to develop within a socialist market economy model (Zhang, Chong & Ap,1999). As the Chinese economy has improved, travel has been regarded as one of the three “consumption hotspots,” along with cars and real estate (Wu, Zhu & Xu, 2000). Consequently, the impact of mass tourism activities in China has grown to exceed the maximum capacity of the natural environment in China (Zhang et al., 1999).

In 2012, the number of domestic tourists reached 2.957 billion, with revenue of $356,567 billion (China National Tourism Administration,

2015). Moreover, this has brought increased damage not only to the ecological environment around tourist attractions (Stronza & Durham, 2008) but also has led to commodification which distorts authentic traditional culture for commercial purposes. Yamamura (2003) found that local minority residents and their culture are changing rapidly as tourism develops in Lijiang, China, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Li (2004) investigated the barriers to community tourism in China with a specific case analysis of Nanshan Cultural Tourism Zone (NCTZ) in Hainan Province. Data for the study in NCTZ were collected using observation; reviews of official documents, statistics, printed tourism promotionals, and marketing materials; and in-depth interviews with the provincial and city tourism bureaus, the developer, tourism companies, and community residents. Li explored the perceptions of different stakeholders of community tourism in Hainan and found that the local villagers were excluded from the process of community tourism development. In China, the local government can decide to develop a geographical area by paying compensation to those whose land is to be expropriated (People’s Republic of China, 1998). Regarding how tourism development might impact residents’ lives, only a little information was available to the local residents. Tosun (2000) has observed that developers may want quick returns from their investment, but community participation would require more time, money, and skills to organize and sustain participation.

Yang and Wall (2009) conducted an empirical study of socio-cultural issues in a well-known tourist destination in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province, China. They identified four socio-cultural tensions: authenticity versus cultural commodification, the state regulation versus ethnic autonomy, cultural exoticism versus modernity, and economic development versus cultural preservation. Yang and Wall (2009) explored the relations among four stakeholder groups: governments, ethnic minorities, tourism entrepreneurs, and tourists. The present study expands on that work by including those four stakeholder groups and another group—labor.

Yang and Wall (2009) concluded that the management and planning of ethnic tourism can better achieve balanced development that takes advantage of opportunities while at the same time mitigating impacts. They also mentioned that older minority people were concerned more about cultural changes and advocated for preservation of traditional culture. On the other hand, young minority people were concerned more about making a living, while cultural preservation was less important for them. Many elders believe the market economy has affected their traditional culture, religious beliefs, and minority languages (Yang & Wall, 2009). Yang, Ryan and Zhang (2013) studied the attitudes of Han tourists regarding Tuva minority ethnic tourism in Xinjiang, China. Those researchers observed tensions among stakeholders regarding beliefs, resources, and power.

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