Positive psychology and its applications in Tourism Studies

Wu, Maoying, and Pearce, Philip L. (2014) Positive psychology and its applications in Tourism Studies. Tourism Tribune, 29 (1). pp. 39-46.

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Positive psychology is an area of study that seeks to highlight the role of positive emotions, character strengths and positive institutions serving human happiness and well-being. There has been a rapid rise in the prominence of this area of psychology since the year 2000. Due to its consistency with the social economic concerns of the contemporary era, as well its accordance with ordinary people' s pursuit of happiness, positive psychology has been increasingly adopted by a range of disciplines. Its application in tourism, however, has been very slow. It was first introduced to tourism studies by Dr. Philip Pearce, a tourism psychologist based in Australia, in 2007.

This article initially addressed the core ideas about positive psychology. Its background, its differences from the traditional clinical psychology, and its distinctive ways of doing research were reviewed. More importantly, the three core research areas, positive emotion, positive personality, and positive institutions were addressed in detail. The relationships among these three elements were also presented. In addition, positive interventions, which help to achieve the three afore-mentioned outcomes were considered.

The highlight of this overview lies in the introduction of earlier positive psychology studies to tourism. The work of Pearce and his colleagues', especially Sebastian Filep, has been thoroughly reviewed and acknowledged. Their work, together with others, fully supports a consistency between the goals of tourism and the aims of positive psychology. For example, tourist behaviour as a case study, the benefits of travelling for individuals can fit in all the elements proposed by Martin Seligman's (2011) PERMA model (e.g. pleasure, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement).

The existing literature which underpins positive psychology and its adoption in tourism is helpful in enriching our understanding. Research in this area, however, can be more insightful and useful if we take the Chinese context into consideration. A critical issue is to incorporate the Chinese cultural issues, especially the influential Confucianism, the Buddhism, as well as the modern communist cultures. These cultural contexts offer insights in exploring the distinctive characters of both Chinese tourist behaviour and the tourism community development.

Considering the broader cultural issues and the research in and about China tourism, we proposed three areas for further research. Firstly, there is a paucity of positive psychology studies in tourism community research. As far as China is concerned, where many provinces and regions are using tourism as a tool to enhance local livelihoods, studies about how tourism can improve tourism community's well-being are both timely and important. Secondly, the thinking in positive psychologies can also be applied to the extraordinarily growing Chinese tourist market and consumer studies. Examples include what issues will influence Chinese tourists' positive on-site emotional experiences, and what are the learning outcomes of travelling, especially those for non-traditional travel (e. g. independent overseas travel, gap year, couch surfing, and self-drive tourism). The last but not the least point is concerned with the well-being of China's aging population and its increasing mobility. The kinds of tourism styles and benefits for this group in China may be very different from snowbirds and grey nomads in the western world. Research about how travel and serious leisure contribute to tourism communities and their own well-being is of particular help to both the policy makers and tourism industry in China.

Item ID: 38213
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1002-5006
Keywords: positive psychology, tourism studies, research applications; well-being; happiness
Date Deposited: 25 May 2015 23:48
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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