Learning outcomes for Chinese outbound group tourists

Lu, Huan (2013) Learning outcomes for Chinese outbound group tourists. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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The principal aim of this thesis was to consider how outbound group Chinese tourists might benefit from their travels in terms of learning outcomes. The definition of Chinese outbound travel for this thesis was all mainland Chinese tourists who travelled outside mainland China and thus the work treated Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as outbound destinations. The basic questions driving the studies were:

1. What factual information about the world do the Chinese outbound group tourists acquire and remember?

2. What personal skills and values do they learn?

3. What are their views/reflections of their own society?

4. How might these learning outcomes be understood?

Four basic pillars supported the development of the studies. The first pillar was to consider the perspectives on learning and memory in psychology. The second pillar was the previous research on learning through travelling in Western contexts. Learning through travelling in Chinese history was the third pillar underpinning the studies. Finally, the fourth pillar considered the characteristics of the contemporary Chinese outbound travel market. The historical, cultural and contemporary patterns identified in the four pillars confirmed an important role for learning from tourism experiences. Building on this foundation work, as well as further recent studies, an integrated model was developed to depict the learning outcomes of Chinese outbound group tourists.

Guided by these background considerations and the model, three research techniques were then applied to collect data relevant to the research questions. A sequence of techniques was used to build the understanding of Chinese group tourists' perceived learning outcomes. In turn, the researcher studied tourists' blogs, conducted semi-structured interviews, and employed questionnaires. The blog study was the first step in identifying perceived learning outcomes. One hundred and twenty blogs, which were in Mandarin, were accessed from a broadly based sample of outbound Chinese travellers' and their accounts of their learning experiences were examined. Coding of the blogs identified a substantial list of facts, skills and reflection about the tourists' own society. Cultural general knowledge, natural environment, and food quality were recognised as the three most popular factual learning outcomes from the 120 blogs. The three most popular personal skills and values learning outcomes were: understanding another culture, adaptability in the new environment, and learning/using a foreign language. In addition, when the bloggers had reflections about their own society, they tended to think most about their living environment, social environment, and national quality (civic and citizens' behaviour) as the top three topics. There were three clusters identified for the factual learning outcomes, two clusters for personal skills and values learning outcomes, and three clusters integrating the reflections about the travellers' own society. The results of blog study provided an array of links and connections to existing studies in tourism, psychology and development. In addition, the information collected also guided the design and coding of the interview studies in the next phase of the research.

As the second step in this research program, 190 semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted in three cities, Xi'an, Chengdu and Hangzhou. The important feature of this approach is that the interviews were constructed as relaxed, informal discussions in Mandarin, thus facilitating tourists' free and spontaneous expression about their outbound travelling experiences. The kinds of learning outcomes were again studied and some explanations of the data were pursued by examining the demographic differences amongst those interviewed. Descriptive analysis by SPSS, integration tables using Excel, and hierarchical cluster analysis were used to explore the most popular learning outcomes and how those topics were grouped together. There were three highlights from the results: first, there was one more personal skill and values learning outcome (desire to study abroad) and one more reflection about the travellers' own society (food safety) than the results from the blog study, while there were 18 less factual learning outcomes than the results revealed from blogs. Second, the relationships between different demographic groups and the learning outcomes were examined. Tourists from different cities learnt differently in terms of some of the learning outcomes, but their period of residence in their cities had no impact on any learning outcome. Respondents who had 2-3 overseas travel experiences reported that they learnt more than those who had 4-16 overseas travel experiences except for the items of national quality and using a foreign language.

Third, the hierarchical cluster revealed that there were five clusters for the factual learning outcomes, three clusters for personal skills and values learning outcomes, and three clusters in terms of reflections of the travellers' own society.

The third phase of the research employed a self-administered questionnaire which was administered to 313 further respondents in the same three Chinese cities. The questionnaire approach was used to expand the number of tourists studied in the blog and interview studies, and to examine empirically the links between different learning outcomes and key influential factors as described in the organising model. The data from the questionnaire information was shown to be suitable to test these relationships. Factor analysis was used to understand how all influential elements were grouped together. Three influential factors were suggested by factor analysis to integrate the influences on the tourists' learning: Self-initiated Information, Outsourced Information, and On-site Information. Those components were then employed in multiple regression analysis to understand their effects on the overall extent and importance of the different learning outcomes. The results showed that there were common and consistent relationships for the influence of self-initiated information on the extent and importance of all learning outcomes. For the outcome of reflection on one's own society, the factor outsourced information also played a role in influencing the importance of the learning.

In summary, this thesis addressed some of the research gaps connecting the areas of learning and travelling. It built a model of the forces involved and implemented a way to study learning outcomes in tourism research. The results of this thesis offer some empirical credence to the much quoted saying: "Ten thousand scrolls are no better than ten thousand miles (of journey)".

Item ID: 31801
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Chinese tourists; travel motivation; travel experiences; learning outcomes; perceived learning experiences
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Additional Information:

Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Pearce, Philip L., and Lu, Huan (Ella) (2011) A framework for studying the learning outcomes of Chinese outbound group tourists. Journal of China Tourism Research, 7 (4). pp. 445-458.

Date Deposited: 06 May 2014 02:23
FoR Codes: 15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1506 Tourism > 150606 Tourist Behaviour and Visitor Experience @ 100%
SEO Codes: 90 COMMERCIAL SERVICES AND TOURISM > 9003 Tourism > 900302 Socio-Cultural Issues in Tourism @ 100%
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