This month we published Tourism Research in China by Songshan (Sam) Huang and Ganghua Chen. The book aims to bring Chinese research to a Western audience and in this post, Sam tells us why that is so important.
China is a big hit nowadays! China’s tourism development has also caught much of the world’s attention, mostly due to the number of its outbound tourists and its citizens’ astonishing spending power overseas. However, outsiders need to learn more from the perspective of insiders for China tourism research today. This book addresses a notable “information asymmetry” between tourism researchers in China and those outside.
As a Chinese-origin tourism scholar in Australia, I have been collaborating in my research with many authors in Chinese universities. The more I work with them, the more I respect their work and realize how little tourism scholars outside China understand what’s been achieved by tourism researchers in China. China may prove to be the most dynamic context to test, verify and expand our existing knowledge on tourism; and it is those Chinese tourism researchers in China who have the best contact, immersion, and interaction with the economic, sociocultural, and political realities informing tourism in China. Although a small number of tourism researchers in China are publishing their work in international journals, mostly by collaborating with authors outside China, a majority of tourism scholars in China only publish in Chinese. Despite the increasing number of English journal articles on China tourism, the knowledge of tourism produced by scholars in China resides mostly in Chinese publications. Such a valuable body of knowledge needs to be made accessible to the international tourism academia.
The abovementioned view came to me when I was co-editing the book Tourism in China: Destinations, planning and Experiences (published by Channel View in 2013) with Professor Chris Ryan. I understand tourism researchers in China may be taking an alternative cultural perspective in researching tourism phenomena in China with a more situated and thorough understanding of the social and cultural environment in China. Not having command of English writing and following western scientific research traditions does not mean that they are not producing good knowledge. I should also note that many tourism scholars in China develop usable and practical knowledge to influence government policy and industry practices through tourism planning projects. Their knowledge contribution should be acknowledged even though most planning reports remain unpublished.
Therefore, to better understand what’s covered in this new book, it is important to appreciate a different cultural lens, ideological and research tradition. I suggest readers with little understanding of China first of all develop a good understanding of Chapter 2 to see how scholars in China understand the essence of tourism. This will prepare you for a better understanding of other chapters. However, in order to understand the issues in Chapter 3 “rural tourism”, Chapter 4 “community tourism”, and Chapter 6 “tourist attraction management”, some basic knowledge about China’s political system and cultural traditions can be additionally helpful.
I believe China will be a significant research context in which more tourism knowledge can be generated. And the work needs to be done by researchers both within and outside China, ideally in a collaborative way. For researchers outside China, this book can help them to understand their counterparts’ work in China and thus give them a common ground to better understand and communicate with their collaborators in China.
As commented by Prof. David Airey on the book’s back cover, this book starts to address the informational asymmetry about tourism between the West and China. We are pleased to see it is “an excellent start” in Airey’s words. Referring to the book series name as “Tourism Essentials”, we do hope the book provides essential reading for tourism scholars worldwide. In retrospect, we can proudly claim it, in Chinese style metaphoric words, as a “spadeful” of the rich tourism “soil” in China!
Songshan (Sam) Huang, School of Management, University of South Australia