Rural Tourism and Quality of Life in US and China - Part 4
Proposal for Rural Tourism Development in China
By Shangzhi Charles Qiu, Research Assistant at the Purdue Tourism & Hospitality Research Center
Improving Subjective Well-being of Chinese Rural Residents
Therefore, in order to improve rural residents' subjective well-being, tourism development in rural China should not just focus on the goal of poverty alleviation, but also pay attention to the quality of family life, neighborhood relationships and public services such as education, healthcare and recreation facilities. Investment should be able to create employment with attractive salary and personal development opportunities in order to attract young labors back to their hometowns. In addition, improvement of housing condition, public facilities and infrastructure is needed to improve the residential environment. Improvement of education and healthcare service not only directly improves subjective well-being of senior people and children, but also makes young people more willing to work and live at rural areas so that their parents and children can get stronger social support. After some people receive benefit from working in rural areas, other people will see the prospects of their hometown and be motivated to follow the steps of the pioneers.
Moreover, enhancing community pride is another critical factor to maintain local talents. Su (2011) mentioned that China's rurality has been stigmatized with poverty, ignorance, insanitation, underdevelopment, backwardness, barbarism, and stupidity. It is difficult for rural residents to be proud of being part of the rural community if this stigma persists. Many people in rural areas today still associate rural life with low QOL and urban life with high QOL. Young people who stay at rural hometown are regarded as not competent, only those who are able to earn a decent life at big cities are appreciated. Therefore, changing this stigma is fundamental to improvement of subjective well-being of rural residents in developing tourism. Nevertheless, achieving the above goals is never easy.
Zhu (2016) proposed a future mode of rural tourism development "rural life-tourism integration" which I believe is helpful for achieving these goals. "Rural life-tourism integration" is a vision of high quality rural life that benefits the subjective well-being of both local residents and tourists from urban areas. Zhu (2016) claimed that China's rural tourism has evolved from "Nong Jia Le" to traditional village tourism to rural resort vacation. The coming stage will be "rural life-tourism integration", in which rural residents regard rurality as an important asset and be proud of it while urban residents regard rural life as a secondary routine. Tourists are not just short time visitors but form an attachment to the destinations or rural life in general. That is, tourism and living are integrated.
This mode of rural tourism requires incorporating modern lifestyle, recreation fashion and aesthetics into rural leisure activities. The core attractiveness of rural life is the emotional attachment among people, religious buildings, history, mountains, rivers, forest, farmland, neighborhood and local rituals. The enjoyable rural life will attract artists, writers and even general urban residents to work and live at rural areas, creating more business opportunities and high income jobs for rural communities, sustaining the rural development. Finally, it will become some people's dreamland for family, for career and for leisure.
Zhu (2016) suggested the following approaches of development. First, the lodging facilities especially "Bed & Breakfast" should be built based on local cultural features and should avoid large scale construction. For example, the landscape in a fishing village in Chengsi, Zhoushan, although appears like a mess, exactly manifests of life, work and affection of traditional fishers by virtue of details and designs. This authentic form should be kept and upgraded to improve comfortableness. Second, the villages should have complete industrial system to support high quality rural life in various aspects. These industries usually include modern agriculture, traditional small scale agriculture, traditional handcrafting, local arts, and cultural innovation. Third, development should reflect humanitarian care and social support in details of public facilities, localized service styles, innovativeness, and local rural gastronomy. Construction of attractions and facilities should utilize local materials and local people, should accommodate to local customs and traditional landscape. In summary, rural life and urban life in the future will represent functional division but have equal quality of life. Urbanity represents efficiency and standardization whereas rurality represents spirituality, individuality, and integration between culture and nature.
Li (2016) suggested future modes of rural tourism development that fit the current trend of China domestic tourism. Some of the suggested modes I believe are consistent with the concept of "rural life-tourism integration". For example, villages close to urban areas can develop facilities such as campgrounds, wetland parks, outdoor adventure parks and recreational farms. Anji Village transformed forest and farmlands to cultural gardens, recreational farms and flower farms and hosts festivals based on the agriculture tradition. Another mode is to develop "cultural village" which contains rural culture museums, rural life workshops, artist workshops and lodging facilities that combine rural heritage and modern fashion design. Tourists can immerse in local atmosphere and absorb the stories of the villages. For instance, many villages in Anhui Province preserved the traditional "Hui" style architecture and landscape. This is the basis of developing "cultural village" by utilizing these resources to stage the experience of historical rural life.
Xu (2015) used rural residents' subjective well-being as performance measurement of tourism development in Tibet. She identified that fair distribution of tourism income, community involvement, and infrastructure improvement were the most critical factors of rural residents' subjective well-being when it comes to tourism development. Therefore, I would further suggest that local authorities should direct investment, particularly from tourism income, toward improvement of sanitation, improvement of infrastructure, diversification of economic activities, and improvement of education and recreation facilities. This type of investment not only benefits residents' living environment, but also provides a more comfortable environment for tourists and makes the destination more attractive and competitive. Thus, the destinations will attract richer and better educated tourists who are willing to spend more money for better experiences or even stay and work at the villages. Development of attractions and design of business models should include opinions of local people and pay attention to distribution of income. Local people should be first satisfied with the development process so that they would be satisfied with the outcome of tourism. This is also an important element of "rural life-tourism integration"
Improving the Subjective Well-being of USA Tourists
USA tourist' subjective well-being benefits from satisfied tourism experience. To satisfy the motivation of outbound USA tourists, what China can offer is the experience of contrasting culture and nature, learning about the long history of this country, and an authentic taste of Chinese life, particularly the traditional part. Therefore, rural tourism, especially "Nong Jia Le" can be an interesting way for US tourists to experience the authentic Chinese tradition. And improvement of landscape aesthetics, sanitation, and facilities is necessary to create a comfortable tour for US tourists.
US tourists, as many developed countries that have a long history of outbound tourism, are becoming more sophisticated and experienced. They are more and more demanding for authentic experience rather than staged experience. "Nong Jia Le" tourism that keeps the authentic forms of Chinese traditional rural life will satisfy the need for authentic experience. Usually, outbound leisure tourists fly to Beijing or Shanghai as the first stop of China tourism. And many tour services are organized in these two cities. Numerous "Nong Jia Le" attractions have been operated near Beijing and Shanghai to provide a weekend getaway for residents in these metropolises. Transportation is convenient in these areas to connect the markets with the destinations. Therefore, it is feasible to develop "Nong Jia Le" tourism for US tourists.
"Nong Jia Le" is already an authentic taste of rural life for urban people in China. Hence, the current forms of "Nong Jia Le" can be used in serving the US market. However, although US tourists want to observe authentic life of a different culture, they expect excellent hospitality service to make the tour comfortable. Tourism service is also an important factor of tourists' subjective well-being (Neal, Uysal & Sirgy, 2007). Facilities and sanitation of many "Nong Jia Le" destinations may not meet the standard expected by US tourists. Therefore, for "Nong Jia Le" destinations who want to target US tourists need to invest in improving the facilities. The improvement projects can be co-funded by farmers and tour companies. In order to have scale of economy, I suggest that a tour company choose an area where "Nong Jia Le" attractions are concentrated so that it can organize several tours to the same place and these attractions can share the facilities. Then the company makes agreement with families running these "Nong Jia Le" attractions about the service to US tourists, arrangement and schedule of tours, and cooperation on facility improvement.
Tourists in general perceive that tourism can affect their QOL through the aspects of health, emotional well-being, social relation and knowledge (Genc, 2012). Therefore, Chinese rural tourism can be developed with themes of health tourism, family fun or cultural appreciation tour. In terms of health tourism, the healthy traditional Chinese cuisine can be promoted. Unhealthy diet has become a major concern of the US society. One powerful attraction of US rural tourism is the "farm to table" dining experience that claims to be healthy and delicious. Tasting the traditionally raised animals and organic vegetables is also an important feature of "Nong Jia Le". US tourists can experience the difference between US "farm-to-table" dining and Chinese traditional organic food.
To make the rural tourism an opportunity to appreciate Chinese culture, the rural dining experience can be combined with rich history of Chinese cuisine in presenting to US tourists. Chinese cuisine has been commonly recognized by Chinese people as a critical essence of this nation's history and culture. Thus, Chinese cuisine is a symbol of national pride and cultural authenticity that can be delivered to tourists. Moreover, US tourists can learn the difference between modern organic agriculture in US and traditional organic agriculture in China. This experience can also be promoted as a family fun activity as family members can learn together how to take care of poultry and prepare rural style Chinese food.
Another form of rural cultural tour is the trip to traditional villages. Conservation and tourism development of traditional villages has been extensively discussed by Chinese governments and academics. 994 traditional villages have been included in the government catalog as important national assets for special conservation. Some of them have been developed into tourism attractions. A tour around these traditional villages could be a wonderful cultural appreciation experience for US adults and education for children.
"The idea of this article comes from my PhD qualification examination process. The issue addressed in the article was enlighted by the examination commitee member Dr. Liping Cai."
Allen, L. R., Long, P. T., Perdue, R. R., & Kieselbach, S. (1988). The impact of tourism development on residents' perceptions of community life. Journal of travel research, 27(1), 16-21.
Andereck, K.L., & Nyaupane, G.P. (2010). Exploring the nature of tourism and quality of life perceptions among residents. Journal of Travel Research, 50(3), 248-260.
Cai, L. & Li, M. (2009). Distance-segmented rural tourists. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 26(8), 751-761.
Calvert, M. J., & Freemantle, N. (2003). Use of health‐related quality of life in prescribing research. Part 1: why evaluate health‐related quality of life?. Journal of clinical pharmacy and therapeutics, 28(6), 513-521
Chen, W. (1997). Peasant challenge in post-communist China. Journal of Contemporary China, 6(14), 101-115.
Crotts, J. C., & Holland, S. M. (1993). Objective indicators of the impact of rural tourism development in the state of Florida. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 1(2), 112-120.
Deller, S. (2010). Rural poverty, tourism and spatial heterogeneity. Annals of Tourism Research, 37(1), 180-205.
Diener, E., Lucas, R., Schimmack, U., & Helliwell, J. (2009). Well-being for public policy: Oxford University Press.
Dong, E., Wang, Y., Morais, D., & Brooks, D. (2013). Segmenting the rural tourism market: The case of Potter County, Pennsylvania, USA. Journal of Vacation Marketing, 19(2), 181-193.
Gao, S., Huang, S., & Huang, Y. (2009). Rural tourism development in China. International journal of tourism research, 11(5), 439-450.
Gartner, W. C. (2004). Rural tourism development in the USA. International Journal of Tourism Research, 6(3), 151-164.
Gartner, W. C. (2005). A perspective on rural tourism development. Journal of Regional Analysis and Policy, 35(1), 33-42.
Genç, R. (2012). Subjective aspects of tourists' quality-of-life (QOL). In M. Uysal, R. Perdue, & J. Sirgy (Eds.), Handbook of Tourism and Quality-of-Life Research (pp. 193-208). New York, NY: Springer.
Gunn, C., (1979). Tourism planning. New York: Crane Russak.
He, J. M. (2005). On the development of rural tourism in China's urban suburbs: A case study on the evolution of Nongjiale in Chengdu. Tourism Tribune, 20(6), 71-74.
Hobson, J. P., & Dietrich, U. C. (1995). Tourism, health and quality of life: Challenging the responsibility of using the traditional tenets of sun, sea, sand, and sex in tourism marketing. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 3(4), 21-38.
Hu, Y. H. (2008). A study on the participation of community in rural tourism.Business Times, 30, 89-90.
Kim, K., Uysal, M., & Sirgy, M. J. (2013). How does tourism in a community impact the quality of life of community residents? Tourism Management, 36, 527-540.
Kim, S. S., Guo, Y., & Agrusa, J. (2005). Preference and positioning analyses of overseas destinations by mainland Chinese outbound pleasure tourists. Journal of Travel Research, 44(2), 212-220.
Lane, B. (1994). What is rural tourism? Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 2(1-2), 7-21.
Leigh, N. G., & Blakely, E. J. (2013). Planning local economic development: Theory and practice. SAGE Publications.
Li, X. R., & Stepchenkova, S. (2011). Chinese outbound tourists' destination image of America: Part I. Journal of Travel Research, 0047287511410349.
Li, X., Xu, Y., & Weaver, P. A. (2009). Motivation segmentation of Chinese tourists visiting the US. Tourism Analysis, 14(4), 515-520.
Long, P. T., Perdue, R. R., & Allen, L. (1990). Rural resident tourism perceptions and attitudes by community level of tourism. Journal of Travel Research, 28(3), 3-9.
McGehee, N. G., & Andereck, K. L. (2004). Factors predicting rural residents' support of tourism. Journal of travel research, 43(2), 131-140.
Neal, J.D., Uysal, M., & Sirgy, M.J. (2007). The effect of tourism services on travelers' quality of life. Journal of Travel Research, 46(2), 154-163.
Pesonen, J., & Komppula, R. (2010). Rural well-being tourism: Motivations and expectations. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 17(01), 150-157.
Ryan, C., Gu, H., & Fang, M. (2009). Community participation and social impacts of tourism. In C. Ryan, & H. Gu (Eds.), Tourism in China: Destination, cultures and communities (pp. 239e258). New York London: Routledge.
Smith, M, & Puczko, L. (2009). Health and Wellness Tourism. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Stiglitz, J.E., Sen, A., & Fitoussi, J.-P. (2010). Report by the commission on the measurement of economic performance and social progress.
Su, B. (2011). Rural tourism in China. Tourism Management, 32(6), 1438-1441.
Su, B. (2013). Developing rural tourism: The PAT program and 'nong jia le'tourism in China. International Journal of Tourism Research, 15(6), 611-619.
Sun, W. F. (2009). Farmer families operating Nongjiale reached 1.3 millions. Available at http://www.92696.com/Html/?912.html.
Urry, J. (2002). The Tourist Gaze. 2nd ed. London, UK: Sage.
Zheng, Q. M., & Zhong, L. S. (2004). A discussion of developing model of community- involved rural tourism. Tourism Tribune, 19(4), 33-37.
Zou, T. Q. (2005). The rural tourism model: The comparison and countermeasures analysis on Chengdu's happy in farmer's family and Beijing's folk-custom tourism. In Editorial Department of Tourism Tribune 2005 English Edition. (Ed.), Chinese tourism research Annual 2006 (pp. 142-156). China: Social Sciences Academic Press.
Cheung, F. (2016). Can income inequality be associated with positive outcomes? Hope mediates the positive inequality–happiness link in rural China. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 7(4), 320-330.
Han, Y. (2016). A comparative study about the subjective well-being among rural elderly in Shanxi Province and coastal provinces [山西省与沿海省份农村老年人主观幸福感对比研究]. Social Sciences Journal of Universities in Shanxi, 28(4), 65-68.
Kuang, Y., Lv, S., Liu, F., Wang, R., & He, H. (2016). Subjective well-being of rural left-behind and urban children [农村留守儿童与城市儿童主观幸福感之比较]. China Journal of Health Psychology, 24(6), 919-922.
Li, X. (2016, June 15th).全域旅游时代到来 最好的去处是升级版乡村旅游. 旅游中国. Retrieved from:http://www.china.com.cn/travel/txt/2016-06/15/content_38669789.htm
Ni, S., Chui, C. K., Ji, X., Jordan, L., & Chan, C. W. (2016). Subjective well-being amongst migrant children in China: Unraveling the roles of social support and identity integration. Child: Care, Health and Development. DOI: 10.1111/cch.12370
Su, B. (2011). Rural tourism in China. Tourism Management, 32(6), 1438-1441.
Xu, X. (2015). 基于农牧民幸福感与满意度的西藏乡村旅游开发模式绩效评价. Yunnan Geography Environmental Research, 1(1), 1-9.
Zhu, Y. (2016, April 6th).乡村旅游与旅游化的乡村生活. 第一旅游网. Retrieved from http://www.toptour.cn/tab1648/info227670.htm