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Tse, SM 2009, 'Forces shaping the trends and patterns of China’s outbound international tourist flows', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright SM Tse 2009


This study concerns itself with outbound tourist flows from China. It is informed by the interpretive social sciences paradigm, and the research methodology is qualitative and inductive in nature. The study uses secondary data analysis, case study, interview/questionnaire and participant observation to answer the research question “How are the trends and patterns of China’s outbound international tourist flows being shaped?”

Secondary-data analysis is used to understand the historical, socio-economic and political context in which China’s outbound tourism has developed. Case study is used to identify the similarities and differences in policy and international tourist flow patterns in Japan, Taiwan and Korea, and provide a benchmark for studying China’s outbound tourism.

A total of 13 academics and industry practitioners and 22 senior China National Tourism Administration officials were interviewed either in person or via questionnaire, to examine the roles played by the Chinese government in outbound tourism. Information about China’s outbound tourism and macro environment was collected from six different forums and seminars.

Seven different forces in the macro-environment were found to be at play in China’s outbound tourism, namely competitive, demographic, economic, technological, cultural, natural and political. The study develops the theory that it is the interplay of these forces that shapes the development of outbound tourism. Among the seven forces, political force, or state control, is the strongest at the moment. The thesis has it that the dialectic interaction between the market economy and state control determines the socio-economic framework shaping the trends and patterns of outbound international tourist flows in China.

The Chinese government is not ambiguous about the fact that it has a role to play in outbound tourism. That role is not just related to quality of living, a level playing field or economic development, but also national dignity, diplomacy, and international relations. To the Chinese government, stability is of such paramount importance that the country’s collective interests are emphasised over the interests of the individual, which are associated with social instability and disorder. Therefore, outbound travel by individuals will be allowed to flourish as long as it continues to serve the wider national interest of the country and it does not undermine national stability.

How can these findings be of use to destinations? When approaching China as a potential source market, destinations need to take a more holistic approach in order to understand the underlying drivers of its outbound tourism.

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