Understanding Chinese tourist shopping in Australia: a social practice perspective

Jin, Haipeng (2019) Understanding Chinese tourist shopping in Australia: a social practice perspective. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

PDF (Thesis)
Download (2MB) | Preview
View at Publisher Website: https://doi.org/10.25903/5ca3e33f5ab3b


Chinese outbound tourism has become a significant phenomenon in world tourism development. Shopping makes up the highest proportion of the travel expenditure of Chinese outbound tourists. However, despite its importance to many destinations, Chinese outbound tourist shopping (COTS) remains underexplored in the tourism literature. A critical review of the existing published research on COTS reveals that most studies are quantitative and focused on explaining satisfaction, motivation and perception from a consumer behaviour perspective. Also, academic interest in COTS has primarily focused on Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, leaving COTS in Western countries poorly understood. To fill these research gaps, the thesis employed a mixed methods approach to systematically examine COTS in Australia from a sociological perspective.

The overall aim of this thesis was to use social practice theory (SPT) as a theoretical foundation to understand Chinese tourist shopping in Australia. COTS as a social practice is the basic unit of analysis, while Chinese outbound tourists are decentralised as the carriers of this practice. Inspired by a zooming in and out approach, the overall aim was broken down into three research questions:

1. What are the key features of Chinese tourist shopping practices in Australia?

2. How do Chinese tourists carry out shopping practices on site?

3. Why are the shopping practices of Chinese tourists dominant in their travel?

Three studies were conducted to answer these three research questions. The first study used a social practice framework to explore the key features of Chinese tourist shopping practices in Australia. Netnography was employed to collect and analyse shopping-related texts and images in 40 travel blogs from two Chinese online travel communities – Qyer.com and Mafengwo.cn. The findings show that Chinese tourist shopping practices consist of four interconnected elements: materials, competences, meanings and settings. Chinese tourists purchase a variety of utilitarian products in Australia, ranging from clothing, accessories and cosmetics, to healthcare products, food and drinks (materials). They not only shop in tourist attractions for souvenirs, but also expand into pharmacies, supermarkets, department stores and local markets (settings). Although language is an obstacle for many Chinese tourists shopping in Australia (competences), a range of information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as shopping websites and mobile apps are used by Chinese tourists to facilitate their shopping (materials and competences). The significance of their participation in shopping practices is multifaceted, including hunting for mementos, seeking brand value, pursuing product quality and authenticity, and maintaining guanxi (meanings).

The second study drew upon the notion of practice as performance to examine how the shopping practices of Chinese tourists unfold in Australia. The study focused on the embodied actions within Chinese tourist shopping performances. At a major tourist destination in north-eastern Australia, 110 participant observations conducted, then the field notes were analysed in a content analysis software, Leximancer 4.5. Chinese tourist shopping practices were found to be performed on site through a range of intra-personal and interpersonal embodied actions. Also, the shopping performances of Chinese tourists differ across shopping settings and categories of products. For example, the research found that while in markets, Chinese tourists often browse and leave without purchase, a pattern of activities not seen in other settings. When Chinese tourists buy clothing and accessories, they try on the items at the shop, but when selecting healthcare products, they rely very much on the images stored on their smartphones. Smartphones are commonly used by Chinese tourists, especially in supermarkets, to store product images, search information online and communicate with family and friends not present in the shopping setting through social media during product selection and purchase.

The first two studies zoomed in on Chinese tourist shopping practices to obtain detailed insights, while the third and final study zoomed out to uncover how these practices are connected to, and embedded in extensive networks of practices. In this study, 32 semi-structured interviews were conducted to identify the major social and consumption practices that affect Chinese tourist shopping in Australia, and reveal how the identified practices lead to the dominance of Chinese tourists' shopping practices in their travel. It concludes that Chinese tourist shopping practices in Australia result from a combination of Chinese consumerism and guanxi maintenance under the condition of outbound travel. Chinese tourist demand for consumerism, mainly featuring a desire for Western brands and the pursuit of high quality, is not matched by relevant supply in China, but can be met and further stimulated through outbound travel. Chinese tourists shop not only for themselves, but also to maintain guanxi via gift buying and purchasing products requested by others. Although outbound travel means temporary absence from guanxi networks at home, their emphasis on guanxi maintenance continues. Further, the low frequency of outbound travel, especially to long-haul destinations like Australia, means that Chinese tourists shop not just for their current needs but also for future use.

Overall, this thesis provides a comprehensive understanding of Chinese tourist shopping in Australia from a social practice perspective. The application of SPT to COTS research enriches and extends tourist shopping knowledge by offering new insights into what COTS is, how it unfolds and why it is the way it is. More broadly, this thesis also contributes to rectifying the dominance of investigations on motivational and perceptual aspects of tourist shopping, broadening the spectrum of this activity and how to research it. From a practical perspective, the findings of this thesis provide guidelines for retail businesses in the tourism industry to develop policies tailored to the valuable Chinese market.

Item ID: 57807
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: tourist shopping, social practice theory, Chinese outbound tourism
Related URLs:
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2019 Haipeng Jin
Additional Information:

For this thesis, Haipeng Jin received the Dean's Award for Excellence 2020, which recognises excellence in Higher Degree by Research and recipients of this award are commended by independent expert examiners as having made a substantial contribution to their field of research.

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

Chapter 2: Jin, Haipeng, Moscardo, Gianna, and Murphy, Laurie (2017) Making sense of tourist shopping research: a critical review. Tourism Management, 62. pp. 120-134.

Date Deposited: 02 Apr 2019 22:46
FoR Codes: 15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1506 Tourism > 150603 Tourism Management @ 50%
15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1506 Tourism > 150606 Tourist Behaviour and Visitor Experience @ 50%
SEO Codes: 90 COMMERCIAL SERVICES AND TOURISM > 9003 Tourism > 900399 Tourism not elsewhere classified @ 100%
Downloads: Total: 577
Last 12 Months: 37
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page