Blue sky, green land and the different life: profiling Chinese tourists' experiences of Australian landscapes

Osmond, Amy Maureen (2015) Blue sky, green land and the different life: profiling Chinese tourists' experiences of Australian landscapes. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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The principal aim of this thesis was to consider Chinese tourists' views, interests and understanding of Australian landscapes with particular reference to one World Heritage Area – the Wet Tropics. In this study, Chinese tourists included those originating from mainland China only. The questions driving this research were:

1. How do Chinese (and other) tourists portray Australian landscapes?

2. What do Chinese tourists gain from their Wet Tropics' experiences?

3. What are the perspectives of tourism stakeholders' in the Wet Tropics towards managing Chinese tourism?

An integrative, multi-perspective literature approach informed the development of the studies. Firstly, the connection between natural areas and tourism, as well as the unique Chinese ways of viewing landscapes were considered. These perspectives were then supported through wider reflections on visitor management and the experience economy, interpretation, mindfulness and tourist learning, cross-cultural translation and the tourist gaze. Collectively, research insights from these areas provided starting directions in answering "what do Chinese tourists gain from Australian landscape experiences?"

Guided by these background considerations, a multiple methods approach was employed to assess this difficult, novel and understudied topic. In particular, the research question was explored from three different perspectives using an Interpretivist/Constructivist frame of reference. The three perspectives were observational, experiential and managerial aspects of Chinese tourists' Australian landscape experiences. In turn, the researcher studied tourists' travel blogs, employed tourist questionnaires and conducted semi-structured interviews.

The first stage (observation perspective) involved an analysis of 844 tourist travel blogs which contained over 28, 000 photographs. Chinese, International and Australian tourists' landscape representations were explored for the Great Ocean Road, Red Centre and Wet Tropics. Thematic coding of travel blog photographs revealed varying levels of importance for experiences linked to the natural environment, additional setting features, tourism infrastructure and Australian lifestyles and relationships. In particular, iconic landmarks, animals and accommodation features were identified as star attractions. Representations of each experience category for the three National Landscapes were significantly different across the three tourist markets. Furthermore, it was found that the more distant the tourist's culture to that being observed, the more interest the tourist has is in capturing the mundane or distinctive Australian lifestyle. Overall, Chinese tourists' representations reflected a collective/spectatorial gaze while Australian and International tourists' depicted a romantic gaze. Findings from the research demonstrated how Chinese, International and Australian tourists experience and understand Australian landscapes. In addition, these results provided a baseline for further exploration in the next phase of the research, which included tourist questionnaires about their Wet Tropics' experiences and interview schedules for tourism stakeholders in the Wet Tropics.

As a second stage of the research (experience perspective), 158 self-completion questionnaires were collected from Chinese tourists to Australia's Wet Tropics. The questionnaire aimed to empirically explore the links between eight different experience dimensions as well as the influence of each dimension towards the overall tourist experience of the Wet Tropics for Chinese tourists. Through use of an a priori-clustering scheme, the data from the questionnaire were shown to be suitable to model Chinese tourists' Wet Tropics' experiences. In particular, cluster analysis was utilised to segment the Chinese market into two distinct markets according to a tourist travel lens. Novice Explorers exhibited limited prior travel experience and knowledge about the destination but were more willing to learn while Established Travellers portrayed relatively similar levels of both prior association and willingness to learn. Furthermore, many differences were noticeable in terms of the level of difference (i.e. average scores) and the degree of influence (i.e. strength of association) between various experience dimensions for the two Chinese tourist groups. Overall, Novice Explorers benefitted more from viewing and subsequently processing information whereas the actual experience played an important role for Established Travellers. The results of these studies demonstrated the role of various experience dimensions in Chinese tourists' understanding of Australian landscapes. In addition, the tourist travel lens was determined to be an effective approach to segment the Chinese market while recognising the unique features which comprise each group of tourists.

The third and final stage (management perspective) encompassed 15 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with tourism stakeholders in Australia's Wet Tropics. Tourism authority personnel, tourism ambassadors and tourism enterprises provided perspectives on both current representations and future attitudes towards managing Chinese tourists. In particular, the concept of visitor management was employed to assess current perspectives while the concept of optimism categorised future attitudes. Manual content analysis, thematic coding and frequency counts were utilised to explore the various management perspectives across the three stakeholder groups. Findings from the study indicate that while tourism stakeholders have diverse views they are also convergent to some degree. Furthermore, the addition of a study about managers' perspectives towards the future, which established a largely optimistic view, is a contribution which adds a well-rounded picture to the research phenomenon.

In summary, the current thesis highlighted the unique characteristics of Chinese tourists and their desired experience patterns for Australian landscape experiences. Perspectives were gathered from different stakeholders to provide a more holistic representation of Chinese tourists' involvement with Australian landscapes. Fundamental connections to existing work, as well as new insights arising from the empirical studies, suggested that the western-oriented research approach adopted in this thesis effectively examined a challenging but intriguing eastern phenomenon.

Item ID: 43781
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Australia; Australian landscapes; Chinese tourists; ecotourism; Far North Queensland; natural environments; nature; tourism; tourist landscapes; travel; visitors; visitor experiences; Wet Tropics
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Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Osmond, Amy, and Pearce, Philip (2014) Iconic Australian landscapes: international versus domestic photographic representations in tourists' travel blogs. In: Proceedings of the 24th Annual Council for Australasian University Tourism and Hospitality Education Conference, pp. 462-473. From: CAUTHE 2014: 24th Annual Council for Australasian University Tourism and Hospitality Education Conference, 10-13 February 2014, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

Date Deposited: 18 May 2016 00:37
FoR Codes: 15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1506 Tourism > 150606 Tourist Behaviour and Visitor Experience @ 50%
15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1506 Tourism > 150603 Tourism Management @ 50%
SEO Codes: 90 COMMERCIAL SERVICES AND TOURISM > 9003 Tourism > 900302 Socio-Cultural Issues in Tourism @ 100%
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