Journey of sacredness: assessing how commercial activities in China affect religious tourists' spiritual values

Huang, Keji (2017) Journey of sacredness: assessing how commercial activities in China affect religious tourists' spiritual values. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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This thesis is concerned with the commercialization of religious sites and tourists' spiritual values. The studies also explore the effects of religious commercialization on tourists' spiritual values. To answer the research questions and topics, considerable data, comprising 80 interviews, 438 blogs and 800 questionnaires, were collected and analyzed. The thesis has seven chapters in total.

The first chapter introduces the global development of religious tourism. Two core concepts, religious commercialization and spiritual values, are then discussed and clarified. This chapter also presents the research questions, aims and procedures.

A second chapter reviews much highly relevant literature. It consists of five sections: global religious tourism, Chinese religious tourism, religious commercialization, tourist experience, and spiritual values. This chapter provides a basis for research on commercialization and the tourist experience, and aims to better understand the relationships between religious commercialization and tourists' spiritual values as identified in previous studies.

The third chapter introduces the research methodology and the location of the studies. This chapter describes the Four Great Buddhist Mountains (FGBMs) in China, and then discusses the relevant methods and methodological framework of the research. An emphasis is placed on using multiple methods to enrich the work.

The fourth chapter evaluates the level of commercialization at the FGBMs. Both qualitative and quantitative tools were employed to assess tourists' attitudes towards different types of commercial activity. The commercial activities can be identified in three domains and divided into seven categories. The results were discussed and then this study built a model about religious commercialization. It was found that food and drinks, shopping, and accommodation were the most commercial categories. Many tourists were influenced by the shopping stores, street stalls, and mobile vendors. Some behaviours, such as indeterminate price, bad service and forced consumption, made tourists feel annoyed.

The fifth chapter tries to assess tourists' spiritual values in religious places. Interviews and a survey were selected as the research methods. The interview analysis was used to investigate tourists' subjective themes about spiritual values. And the objective survey analysis was employed to extract factors of spiritual values and measure their relative importance. The extracted factors of spiritual values are transcendence, general connectedness, inner balance, positive life direction, and specific religious feelings.

The sixth chapter explores how commercial activities in religious places affect tourists' spiritual values. Two kinds of interviews were conducted at the FGBMs. The first interview focuses on tourists' perceived level of religious commercialization and spiritual values, and how commercial activities affect their feelings. The second interview tried to understand the general impression of religious tourists towards destination images and ascertain the factor influencing their views. The second objective assists in contextualising the relative importance of commercialization in the overall views of a destination. It was found that Tourists' spiritual values were enhanced by others' Buddhist beliefs, devoted acts, traditional rituals, cultural architectures, and natural features. But many commercial activities, nonstandard staff services, low quality of tourism products, and environmental pollution appeared to negatively affect tourists' impressions on religious sites.

Finally the last chapter considers the key points from the research findings. These findings contribute to the academic literature, and practical management for religious tourism. In addition, this chapter reviews the limitations of the current studies, and proposes directions for further research. Further, the trajectory of religious tourism development in China has been predicted. Some possible opportunities and challenges for developing religious tourism sustainably are highlighted.

Item ID: 51596
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: China, Chinese religious tourism, commercialized religious destinations, Four Great Buddhist Mountains, global religious tourism, religious commercialization, religious feelings, religious tourism, spiritual values, tourist experience
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2017 01:53
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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