Labor Concerns in Ethnic Tourism
The present research included labor as a stakeholder group in our analysis of stakeholder relations in ethnic tourism. The Global Code of Ethics for Tourism includes Article 9 of Rights of the Workers and Entrepreneurs in the Tourism Industry (World Tourism Organization, n.d.) which mentions that “Partnership and the establishment of balanced relations between enterprises of generating and receiving countries contribute to the sustainable development of tourism and an equitable distribution of the benefits of its growth.” China, as a member of the United Nations World Trade Organization (UNWTO), is expected to follow the Global Code of Ethics. Therefore, it is significant to include labor in the stakeholder analysis for ethnic tourism. Moreover, critical management studies (Adler, Forbes & Willmott, 2007; Cunliffe, Forray Sc Knights, 2002) emphasize understanding business situations from the perspective of workers.
Study Area: Bing Lang Gu, Hainan
The majority of the Chinese population is of Han ethnicity. China also has 55 ethnic-minority groups. China is divided into 22 provinces and five autonomous regions: Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, and Guangxi. Autonomous regions are provincial-level administrations, mainly populated by minority people. Minorities make up 8% of the population, totaling about 96 million people and occupying about 65% of China’s total area (Sofield Sc Li, 1998). According to a guideline from the National Tourism Administration in the year 2000, tourism development and cultural policy in China should focus on both heritage and the preservation of ethnic minority cultures (Xie, 2001).
One of the regions in China with a distinctive local culture is Hainan Province, the focus of this research. Hainan is an island in the South China Sea, approximately 25 km off the southwestern coast of the Chinese mainland (Massing, 2016). Hainan’s ethnic minorities total 1.4 million people, and Hainan has a wealth of ethnic cultures. The Li minority, with a population of 1.26 million people, is indigenous to Hainan and is the largest of these groups, constituting approximately 15% of the total population of Hainan Province (Xie, 2011). About 60,000 Miao and 7,000 Hui live in Hainan. The ethnic minorities mainly live in the central-south regions of the island and Li and Miao autonomous counties, while the majority Han population is concentrated along the coastal regions (Xie, 2011).
Ethnic minorities generally participate in the informal tourism sector by selling crafts, souvenirs, and local fruit. A small proportion of the population works in the hotels and tourist folk villages. Many folk villagers have been working for the song and dance shows in Hainan. “The most visible manifestation for ethnic employment is in the folk villages where Li work as dance performers and staff” (Xie, 2011, p. 79). Ethnic ceremonies, ethnic foods, and souvenirs provide opportunities for visitors to know more about ethnic cultures.
Bing Lang Gu is an ethnic-minority theme park that exhibits Li and Miao culture. It is about 28 km from Sanya and lies in Baoting Li and Miao Autonomous County, which has the highest number of Li minority communities. Bing Lang Gu covers an area of about 333 hectares and was established in October 1995, during the initial phase of tourism development in Hainan. It is managed as a cooperation between a private businessman and the provincial government. The total number of visitors to Bing Lang Gu was 1.5563 million in 2017, a year-on-year increase of 22.48% (Han Sc Xi, 2018). The peak of visiting is during Chinese public holidays—Labor Day week, National Day week, and Spring Festival week. The entrance fee is 169 RMB.
Figure 9.1 Li woman doing handicrafts Source: Authors’ own elaboration
At Bing Lang Gu, visitors can see how people lived on the island of Hainan thousands of years ago. Tourists can also watch the process of manufacturing a variety of handicrafts (Figure 9.1), observe how they make fire, watch traditional dances of Li and Miao nationalities, and listen to their songs. The whole of Bing Lang Gu consists of two main parts: the ethnic villages of Li and Miao nationalities and the tropical gardens, where large plantations of the betel nut tree are located. The idea behind Bing Lang Gu was to create a living community that gave tourists the opportunity to learn more about Li culture (Xie, 2011). Moreover, Bing Lang Gu has a rich environment, with rain forests, countless betel nut trees, and wildlife, including lizards, spiders, and monkeys.
The research presented in this chapter is based on the dissertation of the first author. The second author was her principal advisor at Maha- rishi International University in the United States. The research aimed to understand the perceptions of minority people as well as other stakeholder perceptions regarding ethnic tourism development through an in-depth qualitative study in Hainan island, China. Qualitative research provides an approach that captures the perspectives of various participants with their own expressions, and it allows the researcher to observe the group interactions of an ethnic tourism community.
Interview participants were selected from five stakeholder groups, including government officials, tourists, tourism companies, local Li ethnic-minority members, and the labor of Bing Lang Gu. Five government officials were interviewed first, followed by five employees of tourist companies at Bing Lang Gu. The third and fourth groups of people interviewed for this research were five tourists and five local minority members, respectively, from Bing Lang Gu. Moreover, the fifth group of people interviewed were five workers from Bing Lang Gu. Some participants were recruited through informal conversations in a relaxed atmosphere. For example, in a local minorities store, the researcher began chatting with a local minority woman, and then started to ask her interview questions. After a time, three more Bing Lang Gu employees came in. After talking for a few minutes about their job, the researcher started to ask them interview questions.
The interviews were conducted in Mandarin Chinese for both minorities and other participants because they all know Mandarin. Because the participants were Chinese, the transcript of the interviews was in Chinese. After analyzing the transcripts, English codes were given, and important quotations were put into the final paper in English translation. The number of interviewees was sufficient to reach “saturation,” in which the researcher sensed that no new theoretical understanding would be gained by additional data collection.
6.1 Data Collection
The researcher observed the study setting and interviewed participants over two months to build strong relationships with the local community and other stakeholders. According to Creswell and Miller (2000), longer engagement by repeated observation can help researchers build trust with participants so that participants are comfortable sharing more information. Interviews were used to explore in-depth the attitudes and values of different stakeholders.
This research employed “data triangulation,” which is the process of comparing data collected from multiple sources, such as field observations, semi-structured interviews, and archival sources (Mathison, 1988). Triangulation can help develop an understanding of potential conceptual categories because different data sources can provide different angles.
The interview questions were constructed based on Browne’s (2008) model questions for appreciative inquiry (AI) (Cooperrider, Whitney & Stavros, 2008) to explore deeper personal values about ethnic tourism in Hainan, China. The AI technique has been used in a variety of different areas of tourism (Raymond & Hall, 2008).
After each interviewee read the interview instructions, the researcher asked interview questions based on Browne’s (2008) examples of questions in four phases of AI: Discover, Dream, Design, and Destiny. Interviews were semi-structured to be more conversational. An example of a Discover question was: What do you consider some of the most significant trends, events, and developments shaping the future of Bing Lang Gu? An example of a Dream question was: Imagine a time in the future when people look to Bing Lang Gu as an exceptional example of an attractive ethnic tourist destination. Please describe your dream.
6.2 Data Analysis
The study employed grounded theory methods to generate a conceptual model based on a constant comparison method of coding qualitative data (Locke, 2001; Glaser &c Strauss, 1967; Corbin & Strauss, 1990). Grounded theory constructs understanding inductively, rather than deductively testing preconceived propositions. Through this inductive method, grounded theory studies may generate insights beyond the prior literature.
Research on the topic of tourism is often discussed by case studies, with emphasis on finding out the descriptions and assertions specific to a place, rather than broader theoretical development. Grounded theory has been a useful method for developing theory in tourism research (Hardy &C Beeton, 2005; Daengbuppha, Hemmington & Wilkes, 2006; Kensbock & Jennings, 2011; Humphreys, 2014; Woodside, MacDonald & Burford, 2004; Martin &c Woodside, 2008). Grounded theory is particularly useful for studying the effects of tourism on cultures and communities (Hardy &c Beeton, 2005). The goal of this research is to create a strong conceptual framework for the improvement of sustainable development of ethnic tourism in minority areas in China. Therefore, grounded theory is a good fit for this research.
In complex social phenomena related to tourism, grounded theory approaches can provide greater insights and understanding (Junek & Killion, 2012). Grounded theory is particularly useful for tourism research and relates to the effects of tourism on cultures and communities (Hardy & Beeton, 2005). Woodside et al. (2004) showed that long interviewing and grounded theory can contribute to understanding the thoughts, decisions, and outcomes from the perspective of leisure travel tourists. Based on such analysis, this study provides a deep understanding of the causes and outcomes of leisure travel. Martin and Woodside (2008) applied long interviews and grounded theory methods to achieve a deep understanding of international foreign visitors’ planning processes, motivations, and experiences in Hawaii.
Following the grounded theory procedures presented by Corbin and Strauss (2008), the data were coded in three steps: open coding, axial coding, and selective coding. Coding for this research was recorded using the ATLAS.ti, qualitative data analysis software.
In rhe first stage of the analysis of data, open coding, the researcher created codes or conceptual labels for events in the data. As additional data were coded, the process of constant comparative analysis compared the similarities and differences between events in the data. In this way, conceptually similar events were grouped together to construct categories and subcategories, which became the elements of the theory. Once identified, categories became the basis for sampling on theoretical grounds. Importantly, during this coding, the researcher constantly wrote memos. As Corbin and Strauss (1990) have explained, open coding uses questioning and constant comparisons and enables the researcher to break through subjectivity and bias.
In the second stage of data analysis, axial coding, the researcher aimed to organize the relationships among the conceptual categories that have been drafted from the first stage. Categories were related through the “coding paradigm” of conditions, context, strategies, and consequences. Questions such as “when, where, why, who, how, and with what consequences” (Massing, 2016) were explored by the researcher. However, the hypothetical relationships proposed during axial coding were considered temporary until the emerging pattern was verified by revisiting the data.
Finally, in the process of selective coding, we looked for a “core” category and categories that need further descriptions with detail. The core category represents the central phenomena of the study. The other categories always closely related to the core category as context, conditions, or consequences. Because discovery of a core category is likely to occur in the later phases of a study, we kept asking questions such as the following from Corbin and Strauss (1990, p. 14):
What is the main analytic idea presented in this research? If my findings are to be conceptualized in a few sentences, what do I say? What does all the action/interaction seem to be about? How can I explain the variation that I see between and among the categories?
We strove to create a common and abstract core concept to widen the theory’s applicability.
A total of 158 codes were assigned to different interview transcripts. The codes were then categorized into main themes. Table 9.1 indicates the main categories and their subthemes and the allocation of codes among them.
The following are some of the interview data illustrating selected categories of findings:
Figure 9.2 is the model of ethnic tourism development which was constructed through the axial coding and selective coding processes of grounded theory analysis. The core category, in the center of Figure 9.2,
Source: Authors’ own elaboration
Figure 9.2 Model of ethnic tourism development derived from grounded theory analysis is unity of stakeholders—the finding in this case that all stakeholders communicated and cooperated with one another. The analysis of this research study in Bing Lang Gu suggests that this is the key factor for cooperatively realizing sustainable, peaceful ethnic tourism development.
As depicted in this theoretical model, cultural values play a key role in bringing about a shared ideology and vision among the stakeholder groups. Based on the cultural values of stakeholders, which start from the bottom, stakeholders share the same core ideology (human-based management, sustainability, authenticity, creativity). Having the same core ideology further shaped the common vision (diversification, internationalization, establish brand, integrate resources) among different stakeholders.
Furthermore, because the stakeholders share a common ideology and vision, the key stakeholders (Tourist, Tourism Operator, Government, Ethnic Minorities, Minority Worker) are able to communicate and cooperate with one another. Cultural harmony in stakeholder interactions is enabled by having a shared vision. Otherwise, they would not be helping one another. Because stakeholders have the same vision, they can work together.
Based on the unity of stakeholders, stakeholders have practical plans and actions—Talent Recruitment, Government Support, Cultural Promotion, Relationships with Minorities, Cultural Protection, and Minority Awareness. This practical planning leads to more detailed actions such as Government Support leading to Infrastructural Construction, Cultural Promotion leading to Future Trends, Relationships with Minorities leading to Tourism Products, and Cultural Protection leading to a Win-Win Model. In the end, all these practical plans and actions lead to what we labeled as sustainable, peaceful ethnic tourism development.
8. Stakeholder Perspectives
Interview findings from the various stakeholder groups provided ideas that can contribute to the furtherance of sustainable ethnic tourism development for Bing Lang Gu. Tourists suggested that Bing Lang Gu should create more activities for them and increase interaction with them. Moreover, tourists suggested that Bing Lang Gu should improve the authenticity of their culture. Tourists want more experiential programs and more cultural products.
Tourism operators in Bing Lang Gu want to meet the needs of tourists by providing more experiential tourism products and increasing interactions with tourists. In addition, tourism operators aim to continue working on protection of the traditional culture and relationship with the indigenous people. Tourism operators’ wish for the local ethnic population is that they can love their cultures by enhancing their self-identity. The vice president of Bing Lang Gu pointed out: “If they wish to inherit their culture, then they need to start from knowing themselves.” The HR manager of Bing Lang Gu mentioned: “Firstly, we should organize the local students to study the handicraft skills, which will let more people know about this special skill because this skill right now is only known by some old Li women; it’s dying out.”
Government representatives aim to preserve the minority culture and improve the living standard of ethnic minorities. Moreover, the government encouraged tourists and employees to provide more suggestions for planning. The government also suggested that the indigenous people should change to experiential tourism and hire more talents. One government official said: “Local minorities lack awareness to give suggestions and lack awareness to join the tourism planning. Maybe they did not realize their right. Mainly the tourism companies and government play a leadership role in planning.” Another government official mentioned: “Bing Lang Gu has an area to sell the minority handmade silverware to tourist, however, Bing Lang Gu management should let tourist know how they make silverware, let them create their own silverware.” Findings regarding the perspectives of local minority people include wishing to improve their living standard. Further, local minority people are nice to tourists and support the management of tourism operators. Moreover, the local minority agree on cultural protection. However, some minority people lack self-identity and are not familiar with their culture and tradition.
Minority workers appreciate what management did for them and the whole community. They follow the core ideology of the management team and share the same visions. Minority workers wish to protect elderly Li women because they think these women are the best precious gift for Bing Lang Gu. Bing Lang Gu provides many work opportunities for the local people. A local Li woman said, “As soon as you want to come, Bing Lang Gu will provide a job for you.” The vice president of Bing Lang Gu pointed out:
Now we are increasing the number of local minority employees, from age of 18 to age of 80, different age group of local people will arrange in different positions, young people can be a tourism guide or security, old people can make handicraft, you can do whatever you good at, even if you only good at farming... . We are combining farming culture with our service.
9. Implications for Practice
From the interviews and observations of our research at Bing Lang Gu, here are some recommendations for the site, which may be applicable for other sites as well. Because sustainable development of the ethnic tourism site depends on continued collaboration of five stakeholders—tourists, tourism operators, minority workers, government, indigenous community—there are recommendations for each of these stakeholder groups.
For tourists: Tourists are encouraged to provide their suggestions to tourism operators by submitting their suggestions to the “suggestion box” at the sites. The social media of tourists can help to promote the image of Bing Lang Gu. Feedback of their experiences is also important for tourism operators to improve their services.
For tourism operators: Tourists seem interested in experiencing the traditional activities of the local community. Indigenous cultural events, crafts workshops, indigenous dance shows, and instruction in minority languages can encourage the tourist to interact with the indigenous community and engage more with indigenous activities.
Current research found that tourism product ideas can come from tourists and suppliers of tourism products. Structure communication between the tourists and tourism operators can enhance product development.
Ethnic tourism sites should cooperate with more international companies; in this way, their cultures can be known by more countries. Moreover, tourism operators should use advanced technology to display ethnic culture (such as advanced museum display video equipment and virtual reality [VR] experiences).
The study shows that tourism operators support the indigenous community by hiring minority people and providing scholarships to their children. This financial support maintains a good relationship with the indigenous community.
For local minority workers: Cultural values training courses for local ethnic employees can keep their cultural values strong and enhance appreciation of their culture’s values. Providing management and leadership training for employees is essential to improve their knowledge and leadership.
For the indigenous community: Self-identity can motivate the indigenous community to maintain traditional events and showcase their cultures to tourists. The traditional handicraft skills of elderly Li minority women need to be passed on to maintain the cultural attractiveness of the site. The local community should encourage their children and students to learn their traditional skills, especially the worldwide intangible cultural heritage handicraft skills, so the cultures can pass on.
Many stores are owned by local minority people at Bing Lang Gu. They should ensure their product’s quality meets the standards and displays the traditional creative design of the indigenous product.
For government: Because Bing Lang Gu displays ten of the worldwide intangible cultural heritage skills, the government has supported the site in expanding tourism development through funds support and beneficial policies. In the future, the government should continue to support tourism development by providing more beneficial promoting policies and protection of the indigenous community.
These recommendations are in line with those reported by Nurse (2006) from the International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.
The case of Bing Lang Gu illustrates a humanistic approach (Pirson,
2017) to tourism in that support for indigenous people and preservation of authentic culture are genuinely valued. Decisions are based on more than a purely economic perspective; culture and the natural environment are not merely “resources” to be turned into profit but are held to be valued ends in their own right. This case does illustrate “moving towards more significant attention to the needs of human subjects, both tourists, and inhabitants of the tourist places,” which the editors of this volume have called for (Giudici & Della Lucia, 2018).
Maintaining dialog with all stakeholders is one of the core principles of humanistic management (Mele, 2016). The central concept emerging from our grounded theory analysis was Unity of Stakeholders. This finding contrasts with the research by Yang and Wall (2009), that highlighted tensions around social-cultural issues in Chinese ethnic tourism development. Current research found that, in the case of Bing Lang Gu, a strong cultural values environment enabled stakeholder groups to share a common vision and ideology. As a result, stakeholder groups can better interact with, communicate with, and help one another, which leads to the planning and execution of ethnic tourism products and the overall outcome of sustainable ethnic tourism development.
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