Marketing Equitable Ethnic Cultural Tourism in China

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Marketing Equitable Ethnic Cultural Tourism in China
Alf H. Walle Clark University at Shandong University of Science and Technology

China is one of the world’s great cultural areas and, as such, many people are interested in exploring the country and experiencing its people and heritage. While many tourists focus on well known historic sites such as the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, or Mount Tai, the ethnic minorities of China are gaining increased attention and are spotlighted here. This growing interest in China’s cultural diversity is spurring a growing segment of the tourism industry. While marketing efforts are inevitably customer oriented, the impacts of all stakeholders need to be taken into account. Strategies regarding how to do so are discussed with special reference to various indigenous peoples of China. CONTEMPORARY CHINESE TOURISM AND ITS ORIGINS

The factors leading to the rapid growth of tourism in China are well known. Evolving in relative isolation, China was long distinct from the West and still is. The 19th and 20th centuries, unfortunately, were cruel to China resulting in domination by the expanding colonial powers who viewed the country as a source of markets, merchandise, and raw materials, not the home of a great civilization. Post World War 11 revolutionary activities gave birth to the People’s Republic that was established as an alternative to the exploitation, disrespect, and humiliation that had been painfully endured for many years. Few foreign visitors were able to visit China during the early years of the People’s Republic and, as a result, the inbound tourism industry was almost nonexistent. Most citizens of China, furthermore, had little opportunity to travel outside their country and, due to this fact, Chinese demands had almost no impact upon world tourism. After the vogue of the Cultural Revolution died down, however, Deng Xiaoping gained a significant leadership role in China and is credited with introducing the market system into his country. Among other insights, he understood that the culture and heritage of China was revered worldwide and that by encouraging tourism the cash-starved country could attract foreign currency. In the mid 1970s, Xiaoping gave his blessing to the tourism industry and since that time, its growth has been sustained and remarkable. Today, advances in the infrastructure of China facilitate continued growth for the tourism industry. Bullet trains make travel quick, comfortable, and convenient. New airports and

International Journal of China Marketing vol. 1(2) 2011


improvements to existing facilities are making it easier to enter China and quickly travel within it. Fancy Westernized hotels that cater to foreign visitors are springing up as well as more modest accommodations. Tourism sites are being developed, improved, and promoted. Approximately 35 years after Xiaoping envisioned tourism as an economic force for China, the industry has emerged as a powerful economic engine that serves many millions of visitors each year while generating generous revenues for the country. CHINA AS A TOURISM VENUE FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVELERS

I am lucky to have been able to reside in China for longer than a whirlwind visit. By living in the country and seeing both tourist destinations and the haunts of local people, I have gained insights that are unavailable to the average foreign traveler with only enough time for a brief visit. Although I am far from being an “old China hand”, my experiences give me more of an intuitive feeling for the country than many short term visitors are able to develop. Spending most of my time in Jinan, Shandong Province (in the Northeast portion of China), I have found the local residents to be very friendly and accommodating. I was prepared for people who might be shocked or offended by the appearance of a white person, but I have found just the opposite. Everyone, without exception, has been very friendly and helpful. I feel...
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