Dimensions of cultural mediation in guiding Chinese tour groups: implications for interpretation
Weiler, B & Yu, X 2007, 'Dimensions of cultural mediation in guiding Chinese tour groups: Implications for interpretation', Tourism Recreation Research, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 13-22.
This paper examines the cultural brokering or mediating role of tour guides and the contribution of interpretation to that role. Using Chinese inbound tourism to Australia as a context, the paper draws on two separate mixed-methods studies to explore the views of tourism industry representatives, tour guides and visitors with respect to cultural mediation. In addition to defining and outlining the dimensions of cultural mediation, respondents elaborated on what these dimensions entail and how the cultural mediation performed by guides contributes to the visitor experience. The findings suggest that, to be a cultural mediator, a tour guide needs to perform a number of roles relating to three broad dimensions: the mediation of access, understanding, and encounters. The first and third, brokering physical access and facilitating opportunities for encounters and/or social interaction with locals, were both reported by visitors as important contributors to memorable experiences. However, it was the mediation of understanding, i.e., the guide’s brokering of a cognitive/affective dimension to the experience, that visitors most frequently cited as contributing to experiences which were memorable. Finally, when asked to evaluate their tour guides’ performance as cultural mediators, visitors reported that many guides fell short of adequately mediating their understanding of the host culture, which appears to be due to both the guides’ lack of sufficient depth of knowledge about Australia and a lack of interpretation skills. The paper presents some of the implications of these findings for tour guiding and, in particular, for the more effective and widespread use of interpretation as a tool for mediating cultural understanding.